MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan -- Combat engineers with Marine Wing Support Squadron 171 conducted breaching drills at the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Haramura training grounds during a company level training exercise in Hiroshima, Japan, April 15, 2015.
The training focused on reinforcing the skills Marines learned during Marine Combat Training and their Military Occupational Specialty schooling.
As part of the weeklong training, combat engineers trained in the fundamentals of reinforcing machine gun post, conducting patrols and breaching set objectives.
During one of their patrols, combat engineers are tasked with the objective of traversing the terrain to reach an enemy post, conducting reconnaissance, creating a plan of attack to breach the concertina wire defenses and closing with and destroying the enemy.
“I gave my Marines the mission, I gave them the tools needed and then I sent them out with the confidence that they will take that hill,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Novotny, the combat engineer officer-in-charge with MWSS-171, Engineer Company, combat engineer platoon. “I didn’t expect them to do a flawless job but that’s why we conduct this kind of training, so they become accustom to these things and when the time comes they will step up to the plate.”
As part of the patrol, Novotny had one of his sergeants’ follow alongside the Marines to supervise and occasionally provide advice to the patrol; however, the patrol leader position is placed on the corporals in order to test their leadership skills.
“It’s important for those young (noncommissioned officers) to be able to take those leadership roles; they are those small unit leaders that are vital to mission accomplishment,” said Novotny. ”We need leaders that can make those split-second decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.”
The Marines’ main opposition during the training was a fortified machine gun nest with two M240 Bravo machine guns and a small group of opposing fighters. Along with the main defenses, the combat engineers’ breaching team’s mission is breaking the C-wire to clear a route for the main assault.
“My patrol had some big challenges to face,” said Cpl. Cody Sprouse, a Combat Engineer with MWSS-171, Engineer Company, combat engineer platoon, and the patrol leader. “We have all the training, however, when we go out on one of these events we face the worst possible scenarios, not to make us fail intentionally but to better prepare us for future challenges.”
Sprouse said that as a patrol leader there were a lot of elements the had to take in to account including where to focus the fire of his’ team’s Squad Automatic Weapon, where are the Marines providing suppressive fire are will be posted and how to properly utilize the M18 Green Smoke Hand Grenades to cover his squads movements as they breach their objective.
“There are a lot of variables to take account for, but that’s why this kind of training is so effective. As you run out and the M204s start to shoot it becomes a very intense situation,” said Sprouse. “Your opposition and your Marines may only be firing blanks but it help simulate that atmosphere of urgency so that you move with speed and intensity to complete the mission at hand.”
According to Novotny, he was very pleased with how his Marines performed during training, saying that he looks forward to continuing to work with them in order to help improve their skills not only as combat engineers but also as Marines.