MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. – Mobility means a lot when Marines and their coalition partners are mostly responsible for a landmass of about 50,000 square miles.
For the I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Marines participating in their Mission Rehearsal Exercise, they are finding these capabilities invaluable.
To help keep Marines mobile and stay secure, Marines deployed with Engineer Support Battalions build fortifications, search for and neutralize explosives, build bridges, provide heavy equipment support and provide utilities in support of I MEF.
For the Marines of 7th ESB, 1st Marine Logistics Group, many of whom recently returned from Afghanistan, providing these capabilities was their critical mission.
“We provided different kinds of support in different areas,” said Maj. Scottie S. Redden, the 7th operations officer of. He added that the engineers of his battalion provided support to nearly every unit within Regional Command-Southwest.
During the I MEF (Fwd) MRX, Marines are providing the same support, but it is completely notional because the exercise is focused on training the command element as they prepare to leave for Afghanistan in the spring.
“The main role of this MRX is information control and processing information at the MEF level,” said 1st Lt. Houston M. Stauber, an S-3 officer with 7th ESB.
During the MRX scenario, the ESB was busy providing support and increasing mobility through Helmand province, which has little infrastructure.
“A good thing about the MRX is we’re getting Marines from different battalions, and many of us are really learning how diverse the Marine Corps really is,” said Stauber, 24, from Pasadena, Calif., about how nearly every unit has a different mission, which still supports the overall mission of providing support to the Afghan National Security Forces.
Much of the support 7th ESB provided not only helped International Security Assistance Forces with their missions, but also played a major role in gaining the local population’s support.
“When they would build a road, they improved mobility while discouraging IED emplacement and the project would actually spur commerce,” said Redden, 35, from Williamsburg, Va.
The support an ESB provides is continuous and dangerous work, but the Marines understand its importance.
“They take tremendous pride in their work,” said Redden, about the battalion’s recent deployment. “They enjoy executing the missions they train hard for. When you get feedback from the unit you are supporting, it’s a tremendous feeling.”
Early next year, I MEF (Fwd) will take control of Regional Command-Southwest and will have a battalion of engineering Marines to help secure the area of operations.