Marines train to build, defend bridges
By Pfc. Sullivan Laramie
| | February 11, 2013
CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Short bursts of gunfire drowned out the rattle of bullet casings as they piled up on the deck of the boat. When the firing ceased, a Marine climbed down from the elevated boat and another stepped up to man the gun.
Marines with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group conducted a training exercise here that not only tested their shooting abilities but all aspects of their jobs from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1.
They practiced shooting the boat-mounted guns, assembling bridges, and rafting gear and personnel during the exercise.
This was the first time – in nearly a decade – that the company’s Marines stood behind machine guns mounted on their boats.
“[While rafting] our boats really aren’t set up for an assault, but more for a defensive position,” said Cpl. Erikon C. Rosamond, a Kosciusko, Miss., native and a combat engineer with the company. “Learning how to fire from a boat is a big difference from firing from the ground because you’re actually moving. You have to deal with the wind, the waves and the constant motion of the boat.”
The Marines adjusted to other differences while firing apart from what they have learned. Marines are trained to lie behind the M-240 machine gun while firing on land; however, on the boat, the Marines had to stand instead. Normally, the M-240 machine gun rests on a tripod, and the shooter must adjust accordingly when switching targets; on the boat, the machine gun was mounted on the side, so it moved more freely. They adjusted techniques used for loading the weapon and correcting weapon malfunctions.
During rafting operations, these boats with mounted guns are used to guide sections of an improved ribbon bridge, or IRB, across bodies of water. This exercise tested the Marines’ abilities to maneuver the sections, which are approximately 22 feet long and 28 feet wide, through shallow water improving their navigational skills.
“The training was good because the Marines were actually operating in confined spaces,” said Rosamond. “They sometimes have only a little less than three feet of clearance on either side of their boats as they were bringing the bridge pieces down the creek.”
When the bridge reached its destination, the sections still needed to be locked together and put into place to bridge the gap, something that can be tricky, Rosamond said.
“They need to know how to place a bridge, and then open and close it so that the waterway is still passable for boats and other watercraft,” said Rosamond.
When the sections come together, the bridge is called a continuous-span bridge, which is effective, but not always is the best choice.
“If you can’t build a continuous-span bridge, you can use [an IRB] and raft tanks or equipment across the water,” said Lance Cpl. Brian A. Fagan, a native of Oakland, Calif., and a combat engineer with Bridge Co. “If it can be driven or walked onto the bridge, you can get it across.”
The company also assembled another type of bridge, known as the medium girder bridge, which is lightweight and can be assembled quickly and easily to cross gaps – with or without standing water.
As a final learning point during the exercise, Bridge Co. used sections of the IRB as rafts to move tanks and personnel with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division across New River aboard Camp Lejeune.
“[The Marines] gained a lot of knowledge,” said Rosamond. “A lot of questions were asked, and I like when Marines ask questions; it doesn’t show that they don’t know what they’re doing, it shows that they’re learning.”