News: 7th ESB Bridge Company Marines conduct training exercise
Story by Cpl. Khoa Pelczar
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Marines with Bridge Company, 7th Engineer Support Battalion, Combat Logistics Regiment 1, 1st Marine Logistics Group, conducted a bridge construction training exercise here, Feb. 15, to test the new Improved Ribbon Bridge.
Being one of Marine Corps only two bridge companies and most junior, the first being 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, this was the first time these engineers got hands-on experience with the IRB.
“This is great training, not only for my Marines but for me also,” said Sgt. Christopher Ivester, engineer, Bridge Company, 7th ESB. “I’ve been doing this for a while now but no matter how experienced you are, there’s always something new for you to learn. I’m glad we finally get some training with the new IRB.”
The IRB provides the Marine Expeditionary Forces with the capability to overcome wet gap obstacles, which are too wide to be breached, or too deep to be forded by combat vehicles, according to the program mission statement.
Developed by prime contractor Eisenweke Kaiserslautern for the U.S. Army, the IRB, an improved version of the Standard Ribbon Bridge, is a modular floating bridge with integral superstructure and floating supports, which said to have higher military load classifications and would be able to cross faster water with banks up to two meters high, explained Michael Travis, training instructor and contractor for AM General Contracting Company.
During the exercise, Marines practiced building and tearing down a 7-piece floating-bridge and how to do it efficiently.
“Most of the Marines in our company had never constructed a bridge or a project similar to this before, so this is a great chance for them to get familiar with the job,” said Ivester, 26, from Gastonia, N.C. “They seemed to be doing really well and I’m excited to be working with them.”
Marines transported each of the seven pieces of the IRB on a Logistics Vehicle System Replacement to the construction zone. Once on site, they loaded each piece one by one into the water, starting with the first ramp, then the inner pieces and finally finishing the bridge with another ramp piece.
Due to an interface issue with free launching of the IRB from the LVSR into the water and caused damage to the equipment, the IRB was placed on administrative deadline in July 2008, as stated in the mission report of the training. Only after a safety assessment and review of the proper controlled launch procedures of the IRB from the LVSR did the Marine Corps resume with testing the bridge in a field environment in September 2011 with 8th ESB and Marine Corps Engineer School. So it was important for the instructors to show the Marines of 7th ESB this proper procedure to launch the IRB into the water.
“The instructors were great, they taught us everything we needed to know about the new bridge,” said Ivester. “They explained everything thoroughly so my Marines could understand.”
Once the seven-piece floating-bridge was completely built, Marines utilized the conventional rafting method, which aligned the rafts perpendicular to the bridge, to maneuver the bridge freely in the water. Then they brought the bridge ashore to load a few tactical vehicles onto the bridge and returned into the water to simulate crossing over a wet gap obstacle and tested to see if the bridge can support these vehicles’ weight. Afterward, the engineers dismounted the vehicles from the bridge and began the tear-down process.
Once the training completed, Marines repeated the exercise from step one to get more efficient with their workflow.
“I’m proud of the effort that the Marines are putting out,” said Ivester. “It’s freezing cold and the rain isn’t really helping us out but everyone put forth everything they have to accomplish the mission, even if it was just training. I have no doubt they’re ready for the real thing when it comes.”