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8th Engineer Support Battalion conducts dismounted patrols

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What was meant to be an overwhelming ambush quickly shifted into a rolling engagement on multiple fronts for the Marines of Charlie Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group.

The first shots of the fight came from 2nd Platoon’s rear flank as it waited to pounce on another group of Marines during the company’s dismounted patrol training, Dec. 13.

“You don’t want to be the one that’s stagnant,” said 1st Lt. Thomas W. Palmer, the platoon’s commander, as he debriefed his men after the fight. “Think of it like king of the hill. You are trying to take ground from him … at the end of the day, the guy on the top of the hill wins.”

The company’s three platoons hunkered down in defensive positions and suffered through three days of cold and rain as they launched day and night patrols through the rough terrain near Mile Hammock Bay, N.C.

“The initial idea was just to work on basic rifle platoon tactics, but we’re also tying in training standards for engineering missions,” said 1st Lt. Andrew J. Varca, one of the company’s platoon commanders. “We’re not normally training to patrol through this type of an environment, doing night ambushes and working on basic infantry tactics.”

Each platoon launched reconnaissance missions designed to bring them into conflict with their fellow Marines.

The threat of simulated improvised explosive devices and firefights waited around each bend in the road as the servicemembers surveyed bridges and ferries and conducted resupply operations.

“Last night, 2nd Platoon went out to conduct a [reconnaissance] of the bridge, and 1st Platoon went out to do a route reconnaissance. They intercepted each other and got into a firefight on the bridge,” said 1st Lt. Christopher J. White, 3rd Platoon’s commander, as he surveyed a map of the area in the cold of the command tent. “They get to embrace misery this week.”

Incessant rain washed out much of the road the night before, but the shell casings still marked the spot where the two platoons met in the dark.

Wet from their previous night in the field, the two units clashed again less than a mile from their previous engagement.

“Your best training always comes at a platoon or company level,” noted Sgt. Justin R. Armstrong, who helped moderate the training scenarios. “You’re forcing conflict, but it is more about their reaction. Most of your team leaders out here are corporals. The platoon sergeants and officers are with them to take notes, observe and evaluate.”

Though the company is not currently preparing to deploy, it is always a possibility the engineers will be assigned to an infantry unit, added Armstrong. The dismounted patrols are designed to prepare them to operate in an environment outside of their comfort zone.

Article by Cpl. Paul Peterson, 2nd Marine Logistics Group