Marines trains with demolition on Fort Pickett range

9 Dec 2010 | Cpl. Dwight A. Henderson

A lot of people join the Marines Corps to shoot rifles and use explosives.  However, young Marines quickly learn there is much more to the Marine Corps - marksmanship and demolition is just a small part of a much bigger picture.  Nonetheless, it’s still an integral part of training that Marines look forward to doing.

Combat engineers from Combat Logistics Battalion 22, 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, had their chance to train with explosives at a demolition range aboard Fort Pickett, Va., Dec. 8, 2010.

Pre-mission excitement overcame the Marines as they began to pile into the trucks.  The Marines drove to an open field, surrounded by trees, in the middle of Fort Pickett.

“I love it,” said Cpl. Ryan E. Buchanan, a combat engineer and Hereford, Tx., native with CLB 22. “I love doing this any chance we get.”

After an in-depth safety brief, reminding the Marines to respect all munitions present, the local range safety officer cleared them to begin training and the Marines got to work quickly.

They used C-4 and various objects to make improvised claymores, an anti-personnel device, and bangalores, a device used to breach obstacles such as concertina wire.

Though the work can be tedious, the enthusiasm for the range did not die down.  This was the first time some of the Marines worked with explosives, and for those who worked with it before, it was still a rare treat.

“That was pure motivation,” said Sgt. Charles W. Griffeth, a heavy equipment operator with CLB 22. “I joined the Marine Corps to blow stuff up.  If I could shoot guns and blow stuff up every day, I would.”

Before long, they were pulling fuse igniters and counting down the seconds before a loud bang would send smoke and debris flying into the air.

The Marines watched with excitement and cheered as their hard work paid off with an amazing show of firepower.

While, for some of the Marines, this was just an opportunity to operate outside their military occupational specialty, the training was vital for the few combat engineers present.

“It’s nice to get out there and experience the combat side of our MOS,” said Lance Cpl. Austin H. Mundis, a combat engineer and Blossburg, Penn., native, with CLB 22. “It helps us, it works all of our skills and it’s a great opportunity to get out there and teach.” 

The engineers can respond to anything while on deployment with the 22nd MEU, and they have to be ready.

“I believe that if the engineers get called to do anything within the boundaries of our MOS that we would be ready,” said Mundis.

The 22nd MEU is a multi-mission capable force comprised of Aviation Combat Element, Marine Tilt Rotor Squadron 263 (Reinforced); Logistics Combat Element, Combat Logistics Battalion 22; Ground Combat Element, Battalion Landing Team, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and its command element.

The Marines and sailors of the 22nd MEU are in the early stages of their pre-deployment training program, which is a series of progressively, more complex exercises designed to train and test the MEU's ability to operate as a cohesive and effective fighting force.

Marine Expeditionary Units are the Marine Corps' smallest permanent Marine Air-Ground Task Force, commanded by a colonel and comprised of approximately 2,200 Marines and sailors ready to provide immediate response capabilities in a hostile or crisis mission.  While deployed, each MEU also incorporates two KC-130 aircraft available from the continental U.S. to support the unit's operations abroad.

There are seven U.S. Marine Expeditionary Units located around the world with one in Okinawa, Japan, and three on each continental coast of the United States.

22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit