News: CLB-6 sacks Lead Mountain
Story by Cpl. Paul Peterson
TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. - By midday, heat from the unrelenting sun bore down atop the rubble of Lead Mountain. The once Forward Operating Base buried away in the desert here remains barely a 530-square-meter outline in the sand.
An old home to platoons of M1A2 Abrams tanks, each more than 60-tons of churning metal tracks and plate armor, the training center here has long targeted the location for permanent removal – now little more than a footnote in base history.
The FOB’s first wall, six feet tall and nearly just as thick, took only hours to demolish after the arrival of Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, May 10.
By May 12, two days after the start of the project, a tent set up by the engineers stood the tallest of the few structures still atop the mountainside. The three remaining earthen walls quickly disappeared as the battalion completed a mission proposed nearly five years earlier.
CLB-6, based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., became the first unit to fit the operation into its training schedule and sent a team of approximately 26 servicemembers to accomplish the task.
“We had two (bulldozers) pushing on the berm pretty much from sun up to sun down,” said Warrant Officer Alan M. Bullwinkel, the range safety officer in charge of the team. “They’re all working as one platoon, and a lot of these guys have never worked together.”
Seven guard posts quickly fell alongside the berm wall before the unit turned its attention to the most daunting portion of the base: the reinforced point of entry.
A thick chain of HESCO barriers, chest-high wire-mesh containers with heavy duty fabric liners filled with dirt, served as the core of the structure.
Nearly 430 individual HESCO cells needed to be torn down, loaded onto trucks, and recycled.
“Usually we can hit it with the dozer or pull it apart,” said Bullwinkel. “(However), everything gets tangled up, and there’s no way to strap the mess down to a trailer or dump truck to get it out of here.”
The mass of snarled metal could stretch more than 60 meters in an area heavily used by training infantry units, said Bullwinkel.
The battalion developed a clever but labor intensive solution. Heavy equipment operators teamed up with motor transportation specialists, combat engineers, bulk fuel and utilities specialists to painstakingly dig out and cut the wires connecting the barrier segments.
The Marines then used large mechanical lifts to slide the remaining sections of wire out of the walls, like pulling blocks out of a Jenga tower, before obliterating the remnants with a bulldozer.
The backbreaking work stained the Marines’ green shirts with white lines of crystallized sweat and coated their arms with a layer of powdered sand. When the sun hit its peak, the unyielding heat of more than 100 degrees forced the crew to halt and rest for a few hours before working into the night.
The Marines were finally able to take a breath when they finished the job on May 14, three days ahead of schedule.