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Twentynine Palms, California
Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command and Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center
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Lance Cpl. Mark Campbell and Lance Cpl. Vincent Reynoso, both of 9th Engineer Support Battalion, dig out a machine gun bunker June 26, 2008, during a training exercise aboard the Combat Center’s training area.

Photo by Pfc. Michael Nerl

Nighttime construction provides good training for 9th ESB

26 Jun 2008 | Pfc. Michael Nerl Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms

Ninth Engineer Support Battalion based in Okinawa, Japan, came across the world to take part in Mojave Viper, a 28-day pre-deployment training evolution.

The over 100 Marines with Alpha Company, 9th ESB, conducted training at night from sundown until approximately 6:30 a.m. The training began June 7 and  was completed  July 14. 

The unit is scheduled to deploy to Taqqadum, Iraq, a month later, said Master Sgt. Steven Wheelbarger, a native of Harrisonburg, Va., and  Alpha Company operations chief. Ninth ESB will relieve 7th ESB to take over their list of projects and priorities, said Wheelbarger. 

Ninth ESB is a self-sufficient battalion and can support itself for an extended period of time, said Wheelbarger.

The battalion has its own water supply, motor transportation, heavy equipment operators, which makes them able to sustain themselves for up to 30 days or more.

The training is done at night mostly due to the temperatures at the Combat Center, and with a full combat load to get Marines used to working with all of their gear, said Cpl. Darrin Russel, a native of Danbury, Texas, and a supervising non commissioned officer with Alpha Company, 9th ESB.

Marines with 9th ESB have been working on various projects throughout the night, including an eight-and-a-half foot lookout tower known as a crow's nest and two Southwestern Asian huts, for the infantry to use when they occupy the site after the combat engineers are done, and four machine gun bunkers for security.

"We have been working in six- and seven-man teams on all the projects," said Lance Cpl. Rudolph Wilson, a native of Farmington Hills, Mich., and a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 9th ESB. 

The Marines have been working in teams on individual areas to keep the project moving along smoothly.

Heavy equipment operators operating equipment such as D-7 bulldozers have helped to speed up progress in building sites that would take days instead of hours if done by hand.  HE operators and their supervisors have been coordinating to build burms to make a wall around the compound and build Hesco Barriers.  Hesco Barriers are walls made of collapsible wire-mesh and canvas screen filled with dirt, and the ones at this particular compound are four feet tall individually.  Heavy equipment enables the construction teams to get the job done faster, said Sgt. Dustin C. Hanson, a Jacksonville, Fla., native, and HE chief for Support Company, 9th ESB.

Some Marines with 9th ESB who have deployed to Korea, Bangladesh and Iraq with the battalion say this situation is very similar to what they experience on a deployment. 

"We get actual training in the rear," said Russel.  Supplies did not come in every night, because the motor transportation has been re-routed due to firing on other ranges said said Lance Cpl. Adam T. Derr, a native of Randolf, Wis., and a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 9th ESB  .   

"We get conditioned and know what to expect," said Derr. 

After the 9th ESB is done with their training they will be better prepared and have better knowledge about the desert, said Wheelbarger. 

Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms