It seems no obstacle is too great for the United States Marines Corps.
When Marines from 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., fired a live mine clearing line charge from an assault breacher vehicle Sunday on Fort Stewart, it was a first for the unit’s vehicles and the first time that Fort Stewart had one fired on to one of its ranges.
The Marine unit is restricted from firing the live charges at its home station and usually has to travel to Twentynine Palms in California to train on the equipment.
"It’s a great venue and a great opportunity for the Marines to train," said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Gary McCullar, commander of 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division about Fort Stewart.
"I couldn’t be more pleased with the ability to work with Fort Stewart and the soldiers and civilians of Fort Stewart and their ability to help us train," he added.
The unit’s capability is a significant advantage for Marine infantrymen conducting an assault.
"We’re the mobility asset. If they come across an obstacle, it’s our job to breach it and our job to find a way to get through it and allow the infantry to assault through to the other side," McCullar said.
Firing a live charge gives the Marines an added level of training on the equipment.
"So it’s two things. One its confidence of the system that the equipment functions the way it’s supposed to. And then the second one is that you actually get to validate the gear," said McCullar. "So the gear works properly and the Marines have confidence that it works properly."
The mine clearing line charge is "basically it’s a string of multiple blocks of C4 totaling at about 1,750 pounds of explosive. About 100 meters long," said Marine Corps Sgt. Scot Gardner, Mobility Assault Company, 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion, 2nd Marine Division. "It’s primarily used for clearing minefields on the battlefield as well as small man-made obstacles such as wire."
On Sunday, the Marines assault breacher vehicle was driven out to a range on Fort Stewart and positioned in the area to launch the line charge.
Marines inside the vehicle then raised its launcher and when ready, launched the rocket with the line of explosives trailing behind it.
Once it was confirmed that the explosive line had laid properly, permission was given to detonate.
Counting down from five, Marines then detonated the line, creating a fireball that sent tree branches and debris in to the sky.
A huge cloud of grey smoke grew in front of the assault breacher vehicle and eventually dissipated above the range.
There was also a noticeable delay between the explosion and its sound reaching observers who were positioned at the top of a dirt berm.
The Marines launched and detonated the line charges three times, however the fourth time it was fired it did not detonate. They had to wait 30 minutes before attempting to detonate it again.
The Marines do checks on the system before use and then if an error does come up, they go through several procedures to see if they can detonate the charge, according to McCullar.
"In the case of that misfire, it’s most likely that the charge is bad or the fuse is bad, one of the two," he said.
Gardner said the unit is only able to fire live charges about once or twice a year.
"We don’t get to do them a whole lot, the live ones, so to come here and actually to be able to do it so close to here, it’s definitely great training for us," he said.
The training on Fort Stewart not only allowed the Marines from 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion to save money and to travel with their own equipment, but their other training with Fort Stewart’s soldiers while here "is good for both services," said McCullar.
"We’re going to deploy together, we’re going to engage in combat with each other against the enemy together. We need to be able to train together," he said. "And Fort Stewart provides us a venue to be able to do that."