Back to Basics: Combat Engineers Conduct Platoon Defense Exercise

Back to Basics: Combat Engineers Conduct Platoon Defense Exercise

Lance Cpl. Michael S. Schmidt, a combat engineer with Bravo Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, II Marine Logistics Group, and Wichita, KS, native, provides security while utilizing cover and concealment in a defensive fighting position during a platoon defense exercise aboard Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marines and sailors with Bravo Co. conducted a platoon defense exercise to reinforce their understanding of combat skills and apply them in a simulated combat environment. Photo by Cpl. Joshua W. Brown.

MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (Dec. 9, 2014) – Combat engineers work in direct support of infantrymen. Their primary objective is to maneuver an enemy force with the use of obstacles, explosives and other man-designed elements that complicate and disrupt enemy movements. As a combat-arms military occupational specialty, basic infantrymen skills are taught and reinforced during training.

Marines and sailors with Bravo Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, conducted a platoon defense exercise Dec. 1 to 5 to further stress the importance of combat skills in their unit.

"We got detailed and specific," said Cpl. Derek T. Michael, 1st squad leader, 1st platoon, Bravo Co. "This [exercise] explained the who, what, when, where and how to defend and attack in this kind of environment."

First and second platoon built defensive fighting positions in separate locations and alternated roles as the attacking and defending forces. Both were supplied with blank ammunition to make the simulated conflict more realistic.

"The main part of the exercise was platoons in the defense," said Michael. "It expanded, though, and the Marines took away an even greater amount of skills like cover and concealment and unit cohesion."

Defensive fighting positions were strategically placed in each platoon's area of operation. Each pairing of Marines were responsible for digging and establishing their fighting position, its camouflage and concealment, and maintaining constant security throughout the day, should another platoon decide to attack.

These demands fostered communication and collaboration between the Marines within the unit, thus helping develop their cohesion and effectiveness as a team. Michael said the Marines were given guidance, but developed their own strategies and ideas throughout the exercise that helped make their fighting positions better and ensure learning occurred. 

"The primary purpose was for the Marines to fully understand defensive positions and how to employ them," said 2nd Lt. Lora C. Thomerson, platoon commander, 1st platoon. "We've met that goal because of our noncommissioned officers and their leadership."

Noncommissioned officers spearheaded the platoon's internal interactions and helped orchestrate the execution of the missions within the exercise. This exemplifies the Marine Corps' definition of how an NCO should perform.

"The NCOs and junior Marines exceeded my primary expectations," said Thomerson. "The next step is to keep the bar high and exceed what we accomplished here."

The exercise is one in a group of exercises the company is slated to conduct over the next several months. Each exercise is held in a different location and presents a different range of goals and challenges. These exercises will build upon one another and are designed to expand the Marines' core skill sets.

"We're going to continue to build on these skills," said Thomerson. "The goal is to increase their knowledge so they can employ these skills on a significantly larger scale."

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