Camp Lejeune, North Carolina -- A fuse ignites and Marines begin to count down from ten as they take cover behind a thick protective pad. When the countdown ends, a door disintegrates into pieces and the Marines rush in, prepared to capture the enemy.
Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment and Charlie Co., 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion spent two days at an urban assault breaching range where they practiced using explosive devices to enter a building during a deployment for training exercise at Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 8-9, 2016.
The purpose of the range was to allow Marines to practice assault breaching in an urban environment similar to what they could encounter on a deployment.
“As a part of our job, we breach doors, walls and windows, so we can make entry into a building and allow everyone who’s there to gain a foothold into that building or village,” said Cpl. Blake J. Alewelt, a squad leader with Lima Co.
By practicing their standard operating procedures, the Marines are prepared for whatever the mission may be.
“Practice makes perfect,” said Sgt. Timothy R. Correll, a combat engineer with Charlie Co. “The more we do it out here in training, the better we are going to be once we actually get into the fight.”
This training is important because it can allow the Marines to catch high value targets off guard in a real world scenario, said Correll.
All the explosive breaching devices used during the training were made by the Marines. They created donut charges, detonation cord linear charges, oval charges and uli knot slider charges.
Each charge serves its own purpose and gives off a different type of explosion.
“Oval charges are used for walls, roofs, wooden structures, even concrete that’s not reinforced by rebar,” said Alewelt. “We use the uli knot slider, which has a push effect, to take off the hinges of a door.”
Math skills are an essential part of ensuring the explosives go off properly and with the desired effect, whether it be to get inside a building or to get past an obstacle like concertina wire, while also maintaining safety of the Marines.
“When you’re talking about a support by fire mission that is so many meters away, the fragmentation may be a possible danger to them, so using math is huge part of the process and we spend a lot of time training on it,” said Alewelt.
Although the Marines faced challenges during the training, it was an opportunity to adapt and gain confidence and experience in their job.
“My favorite part in conducting this training has been seeing the junior Marines evolve and get to learn new ways in conducting this training they haven’t learned before,” said Alewelt. “Coming here has given them the chance to learn tricks of the trade to make things smaller, easier to carry or more lethal.”