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Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force

Integrated Task Force Engineer Platoon sets charges for MCOTEA assessment

By | | March 25, 2015

Marines with Engineer Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, Ground Combat Element Integrated Task Force, began their Marine Corps Operational Test and Evaluation Activity assessment at Range 107, Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, California, March 22, 2015.

The platoon began their assessment by breaking up into fire teams to conduct a 400 meter movement that would lead them to their first obstacle: an eight-foot tall steel storage container. Each fire team carried two kits of M1A2 Bangalore torpedoes weighing approximately 150 pounds. Teams worked together to get each other and their demolitions over the container.

Afterward, the teams prepared for a hasty breach by advancing over a berm and to their target: concertina wire. Moving behind the concealment of smoke grenades, the Marines snapped their Bangalores in place. Once charges were primed, they took cover behind the berm, as the targets were destroyed.

Fire teams were randomized during the assessment to allow the data collectors to assess as many variables as possible. In addition, each Marine wore a heart rate monitor and Global Positioning System device to accurately record data.

As we randomize, it gives (the engineers) a chance to experience multiple roles as a combat engineer, and it will later on make them better Marines once we conclude this assessment and send them to their next command, said Sgt. Brenton A, Slover, squad leader, Engineer Plt., H&S Co., GCEITF.

Following their hasty breach, the Marines conducted a mile and a half movement with approximately 40 pounds of gear to Range 108 for their next task, using a shape charge to blow a hole in the ground, with a cratering charge set after.

“The hikes aren’t too bad, but getting over the steel container is definitely a team effort,” said Cpl. Joshua J. Syverson, combat engineer, Engineer Plt., H&S Co., GCEITF. “The hasty breach also requires Marines to work together down to the last man.”

The following day, the platoon continued their assessment by conducting a four and a half mile movement to Range 110 with a fighting load of approximately 40 pounds. Upon arrival, the Marines switched to their 20-pound assault packs and moved on to using compact metal detectors to mine sweep a distance of 500 meters. Their goal was to detect and remove simulated enemy explosives buried beneath the sand.

The 1371 military occupational specialty is open to females, but they are not currently operating in units within the Marine Divisions. Despite this, the Marines in the platoon call on their initial combat engineer training and teamwork to accomplish their tasks.
“Sometimes (this assessment) is challenging,” said Cpl. Alicia Hernandez, combat engineer, Engineer Plt., H&S Co., GCEITF. “Being that this is our (military occupational specialty), I think it has been manageable for all of us so far.”

With their mine sweep complete, the Marines were transported to Range 114 for their final endeavor: cache reduction.

Marines loaded 32 155mm shells weighing approximately 95 pounds each on the back of a seven-ton truck. The shells were then taken to the detonation zone, where the Marines used shovels to dig eight holes. They proceeded to place four shells in each hole, along with C4 charges and detonation cord in preparation for their reduction.

Once charges were set, all Marines moved to a bunker where they observed the successful detonation of their targets.

“I feel this assessment is a really good thing because it shows where the Marines stand as engineers,” Slover said. “It gives a fair chance for the Marines (to operate at different levels).”

From October 2014 to July 2015, the GCEITF will conduct individual and collective level skills training in designated ground combat arms occupational specialties in order to facilitate the standards-based assessment of the physical performance of Marines in a simulated operating environment performing specific ground combat arms tasks.