MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Heavy equipment operators from Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 capitalized on the opportunity to practice using their heavy equipment at the Haramura training area near Hiroshima during Exercise Thunder Horse, March 17-22, 2013.
The Marines practiced digging 14-foot trenches and individual fighting positions in an open field near the main campsite.
“The techniques from the training weren’t just meant for practice,” said Staff Sgt. Jose Camberos, MWSS-171 heavy equipment operations chief. “It gives the Marines an understanding of how their equipment works and the ways to move dirt. When the Marines leave the schoolhouse, they don’t get the opportunity to dig anti-tank ditches and fighting positions.”
Along with combat-oriented digging, Marines earned experience assisting others digging trenches around tents with backhoes instead of using entrenchment tools.
“Digging the trenches helped me to get a better feel for the backhoe,” said Lance Cpl. Austin Blodgett, MWSS-171 heavy equipment operator. “It added valuable stick time, which is when we get behind the controls and earn time practicing.”
With extended periods of rain throughout the training, mud and clay made operations more difficult for the Marines. It escalated to the point where even vehicles with all terrain tracks were getting stuck.
“Earth-moving is very specific when it comes to the material,” said Camberos. “If the material is too dry, it will crumble away. If it’s too wet, vehicles tend to get stuck. We had the dozer get stuck, and that rarely happens.”
Aside from moving dirt and mud, Camberos also explained what his concept of the training was truly about.
“What I mainly look for when I train them in earth moving is the Marines understanding what they’re doing and not just moving dirt,” said Camberos. “If Marines don’t know the correct process for digging a fighting position, it would become a counterproductive process.”
With the Haramura training ground providing conditions for valuable teaching periods, the Marines leave not as experts, but more experienced in their profession.