Feb 10, 2013 -- OKINAWA, Japan - As the force of the explosion sends a shockwave through the air, the pressure can be felt against the chests of everyone nearby.
The sound echoes through the area as Marines rush to clear the barbed-wire obstruction recently ravaged by the explosion. A bulldozer rumbles through the opening, churning up earth, clearing simulated mines from the path.
Marines from Combat Assault Battalion performed breaching operations against deliberate defensive positions Jan. 22–23 at Landing Zone Dodo in the Central Training Area.
“Over the past decade, we haven’t had to use these core skills,” said Capt. Timothy G. Ernst, commanding officer of Combat Engineer Company, Combat Assault Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. “This training event is designed to hone and sharpen our capabilities outlined in the deliberate defense and breaching operations doctrine.”
The exercise was so expansive that it required every element of CAB, including Light Armored Reconnaissance Co., Assault Amphibious Vehicle Co. and Combat Engineer Co. to be successful in the multitiered two-day event.
“Our heavy-equipment Marines arrived at (LZ Dodo) about a week ago to break ground and start the development of this obstacle belt,” said Sgt. Cameron Collier, a combat engineer with Combat Engineer Co. “They were given an open-ended task of creating something that will be versatile as well as challenging.”
This was no ordinary training event for CAB, as the battalion went through a long, arduous process to actually build the training site, conduct the training under restrictions, and prove expansive training is an option while stationed in Okinawa.
“All too often the term ‘we can’t do that’ is used in reference to training in Okinawa,” said Maj. Daniel J. Thomas, operations officer in charge for CAB. “While our focus was on the training, we also showed the Corps what we can do, not what we can’t.”
The Marines who built the course really went beyond expectations, according to 1st Lt. Matthew R. Audette, a platoon commander with Combat Engineer Co. The tank ditch was dug deeper than anticipated and the tank berm was higher than projected.
The experience gained during this training gave the battalion a chance to fine-tune its procedures in preparation for the day it’s needed on the battlefield.
“We are a significant factor to the mobility and countermobility of the 3rd Marine Division,” said Thomas. “Our expertise and efficiency performing these types of tasks are crucial to mission accomplishment.”