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Marines with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group work with personnel from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group to pull down on the nose of the medium girder bridge as they lock everything in place during bridge assembly training at Camp Lejeune, N.C. Aug. 5, 2014. This training maintained gap-crossing capabilities and developed proficiency in bridging. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein/released)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein

Building bridges: Combat engineers take on the gap

18 Aug 2014 | Lance Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein

Marines with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group joined forces with service members from Bravo Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group to construct one of the largest medium girder bridges in recent years.

The units constructed the 22-bay, double-story span with link reinforcement at a training site at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Aug. 5. For the Marines of 9th ESB, who are based out of Okinawa, Japan, it was a unique opportunity to join their sister battalion in a training environment they don’t often have overseas.

“We’re debuting our maximum capabilities,” said Capt. Emma Frowine, a company commander with 8th ESB. “[The Marines from 9th ESB] came in with an appetite for learning.”

The bridge itself spanned approximately 150 feet and was the longest medium girder bridge constructed by a Marine unit in more than a year. The different terrain in Okinawa didn’t provide as many opportunities for bridge training, said 1st Lt. Scott Cotton, a platoon commander with 9th ESB.

“This is the only bridge training in the Marine Corps devoted to medium girder bridges,” he noted. “My Marines get to work first-hand with subject matter experts, sharing knowledge and capabilities with our sister battalion.”

The exercise helped maintain gap-crossing capabilities within both units, added Frowine. The time, training, and funding associated with bringing the two units together helped develop proficiency in bridging, while also testing the full capabilities of the bridge system at its maximum length.

For Marine combat engineers, bridge training begins after completing their basic instruction at engineer school, said 1st Lt. Douglas Alvey, a platoon commander with 8th ESB.

“This is a small community of bridging experts, through lots of practice and real-world application. The Marines are learning a lot,” he said.

Their abilities allow them to maintain mobility and get to the fight that lays beyond challenging terrain features.

Marines from both units worked together to build, tear down, and rebuild the expansive structure. They lined the sides of the panels, grasping the sections before loosening the locks and pulling the bridge away from the gap.

The work was rigorous but precise.

The medium girder bridge takes about six to eight hours to assemble, said Alvey. It took a lot of logistical effort to move the equipment into the proper settings and positions. Even so, the light-weight bridge, which has special alignment aids built into it for easy assembly, allows the bridge Marines to reach out and create crossing points in otherwise impassable terrain.

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