13th MEU Marines, Sailors train to navigate collapsed concrete jungles

13th Marine Expeditionary Unit
Story by Sgt. Christopher O'Quin

Date: 10.05.2012
Posted: 10.07.2012 03:41
News ID: 95818
13th MEU Marines, Sailors train to navigate collapsed concrete jungles

SAN FRANCISCO - An earthquake or natural catastrophe can happen in minutes, threatening people’s lives and welfare. On Oct. 05, 2012, 10 Marines and Sailors with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, learned the skills to rapidly respond to these tragedies as part the 2012 San Francisco Fleet Week.

The San Francisco Fire Department hosted the 13th MEU Marines and Sailors at the Treasure Island Training Facility where they spent the morning learning the fundamentals of shoring, cribbing, breaching and cutting.

“We want the people to know that Marines aren’t just here to protect us, they’re here to help us when we have a major disaster,” said Pat Gardner, state fire marshal instructor of rescue systems and retired SFFD chief. “It’s a great pool of resources of physically fit people that can come in and do any job you need them to do. In a real life incident there’s nobody better than to call the Marines to come help us.”

Their first exercise was to lift a 6,000-pound slab of reinforced concrete off the ground with only pieces of wood and steel bars to aid them. Inch by inch, a few worked as a team to wedge the pieces of wood as a crib support while others used their strength to pry the concrete off the ground.

“These tools the Marines are using, is the same technology they used in Egypt to build the pyramids thousands of years ago,” said Capt. Frank Cercos, captain of Engine 1, San Francisco Fire Department. “They’re using levers, fulcrums and wood cribbing for support. Basically it’s muscles and bars doing the work combined with physics and teamwork. It’s all you need. The best part is you can utilize materials in your environment to do the work.”

After learning how to lift the heavy rubble the Marines learned to reinforce the newly raised rubble and structures with wood shoring that they created from 2x4s and other pieces of wood.

“Once you have the structure lifted, the wood shoring will keep it up for extended periods of time to get to the trapped people,” said Capt. Glenn Kircher, with the SFFD. “The one good thing about wood is you’ll see warning signs to reinforce the shoring. You’ll see warping and twisting, hear creaking and groaning, and that means you need to reinforce the shoring with more wood. Wood never lies.”

The Marines and Sailors built their shoring and then proceeded to deal with other concrete obstacles using a more blunt approach; jackhammers and diamond-tipped power saws. They learned how to safely cut and pummel the concrete to make holes necessary for assisting trapped people.

At the end of the training, the Marines, Sailors and Firefighters ate lunch together sharing stories and experiences like old friends.

“The CLB benefited greatly for the simple fact that if we have to do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, we’ll be able to use these skill sets to help save lives,” said Sgt. Jimmy K. Waweru, a platoon sergeant with Engineer Detachment, CLB 13, 13th MEU, and Mombasa, Kenya native. “This demonstration was an overview of what I learned during the two-week Urban Search and Rescue Course I did here earlier this year.”

When each minute means the difference between danger and deliverance, when each minute means people live or die, the Marines and Sailors of the 13th MEU have the swift means to respond and deliver hope to those in need.

“These Marines are better prepared and just like with anything you have to practice and practice some more, to prepare for if the time comes for us to respond,” concluded Waweru.