CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait --
A platoon of combat engineers descended upon a training area situated between a sea of white tents to the east and vast desert to the west in a dusty convoy of humvees and bulldozers. They knocked the dust off their hammers, shovels and saws, cranked up the heavy equipment, and primed for the attack.
The combat engineers of Headquarters and Support Company, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), have spent most of their time in Kuwait training for combat, said Gunnery Sgt. Eric J. Fears of Blue Ridge, Ga. Recently, these Marines have gone back to the basics to construct an Improvised Explosive Device training lane here aboard Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
"We've already done some demolitions and (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) training, so now we're getting back to building some bunkers, because that's what we do,"said Fears. "We support grunts, and that's a big job."
Though many of these engineers have one or more deployments under their tool belts, the platoon also has its fresh faces. In addition to searching out nails, retrieving hammers, and filling sandbags, the new, but motivated Marines have been providing the veteran engineers with a little comic relief.
"For a lot of these guys, the first time they touch a hammer and nails is in Engineer's School,"said Cpl. Benjamin M. Riddle, a Chapel Hill, N.C., native. "Since then, they haven't touched one for almost a year until they got out here. They'll cut crooked, or they'll be slipping and bending nails, it's just funny to watch."
The engineers may have learned everything they know in class, but the instructors cannot bless students with the finesse of experience.
"We all know the little tricks of the trade that we've picked up along the way, so watching them struggle is funny,"said Riddle. "Anybody who's done construction will know what I'm talking about."
The Army section that runs the range needed help making the IED lane so Marines were quick to volunteer, said Fears. Beside creating roads and building a fortified gun position, the platoon has also sharpened its skills with some wood frame construction. They took half of a singlewide trailer, added plywood and framing, and sealed it up to give the guys a place to get out of the heat.
Though the platoon could finish the job in a matter of hours, they have been taking their time and enjoying the experience, said Fears.
"We want to make sure the younger Marines get something out of it, that they learn something they can take with them,"said Fears. "A lot of these kids are new and they'll be deploying again, either to Iraq or Afghanistan."
The younger Marines did take more from the worksite than the dirt under their fingernails. Under the expert supervision of their noncommissioned officers, they measured planks, ripped plywood, pounded nails and filled sandbags.
"This gives us a chance to build and work on our construction and engineering skills, and it helps the Army out because we're doing some extra work that they don't need to do,"said Lance Cpl. Jeffrey S. Moore, of Toledo, Ore. "It gives them a hand and gives us time to work in our field and make something useful."
In three days, the engineers retrofitted the range. They combined their skills to build a training area that will soon teach troops from every branch how to protect themselves against the IED threats in Iraq.
"I love my job, where else can you build stuff and blow stuff up?"said Fears as he laughed. "I definitely can't complain."
The Marines and sailors of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) are on a scheduled deployment as the theater reserve for the Central Command area of responsibility. It consists of its Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (BLT 3/8); Aviation Combat Element, Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 261 (reinforced) (HMM-261 rein.); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22 (CLB-22); and it Command Element. The unit is currently conducting sustainment training aboard Camp Buehring, Kuwait.