MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In accordance with the U.S. Marine Corps’ modernization initiative known as Force Design 2030, Marines are returning to their amphibious roots as they continue to integrate with their U.S. Navy counterparts around the Fleet.
In North Carolina, the “Pioneers of the Fleet Marine Force” recently completed a two-week joint exercise to fulfill the Commandant’s intent by doing what Marines do best: preparing for combat.
U.S. Marines with 8th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB), Combat Logistics Regiment 27, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, conducted a Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation (MCCRE) while participating in Exercise Summer Pioneer 2022 alongside U.S. Navy Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 1, Naval Construction Group 2, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from July 15 to 29, 2022.
Summer Pioneer is a naval engineering exercise designed to demonstrate integrated Marine Corps and Navy formations to establish, sustain, and train to Expeditionary Advanced Base (EAB) and Maritime Domain Awareness operational concepts.
Summer Pioneer ran concurrently with the unit’s MCCRE, enabling the battalion commander to formally evaluate combat readiness while enhancing interoperability with active-duty Navy partners who will be integral in a near-peer fight.
“Working with the Seabees has been great,” said Capt. Scott Davoren, a combat engineer officer with 8th ESB. “To be able to get them out here in an exercise like this, where we're sleeping in a tree line and living together, eating together, working together; it's improving our proficiency in our own MOS and allowing us to widen our perspective of how we understand engineering as a whole.”
Summer Pioneer 2022 not only showcased the joint engineering proficiency that Marines and Seabees have maintained for decades, but also helped to build camaraderie between the service branches.
“The biggest challenge we faced was integrating not only with Seabees that we've never worked with before, but Marines from across the battalion that have never worked together,” said Davoren. “Over the course of the exercise, we've seen a drastic improvement in teamwork, proficiency, and camaraderie across the board.”
Lt. Zeke Shaffer, the officer-in-charge for Detachment Lejeune, NMCB 1, shared a similar sentiment and highlighted the enhanced capabilities the blue-green team demonstrated during the exercise.
“Having the Marines here has been great. We’re able to use them with all of our projects we have tasked. They’re able to provide extra hands, we’re able to pound hammers quicker and get more projects done faster,” said Shaffer.
While conducting Summer Pioneer 2022, 8th ESB also trained to a variety of mission essential tasks and training objectives to complete their MCCRE, from bulk fueling to patrolling to rope bridging – all with the overarching goal of preparing the battalion for combat.
The old adage, “The best offense is a good defense,” was taken to heart by the Marines during the MCCRE.
The naval engineering professionals planned and assembled an expeditionary defensive position curated specifically for an EAB environment.
The battalion employed vertical construction, heavy equipment operators, and utility support to fabricate underground bunkers – a capability especially important in forward-deployed austere locations where cover and concealment is paramount and hardened structures may not be readily available.
''The ability to build bunkers demonstrates not only that the engineers are proficient, but that they're tactically thinking through the decisions they're making. “They have the tactical mindset of where to place the bunkers and what the bunker needs to look like in order to support a defensive position.”
Following the battalion’s culminating 15-kilometer hike and subsequent retrograde, the Marines and Sailors redeployed to their respective headquarters, which meant the Seabees of NMCB 1 headed back to their home station in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Though Summer Pioneer 2022 has concluded, the rigorous training made the Marines and Seabees undeniably prepared for future joint operations.
“Having the Marines and Sailors together was huge,” said Shaffer. “It showed that we’re all saying, ‘Hey, we can work well together and get after it.’ We are all working towards one mission.”