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Marine brings welding skills to fight against insurgency

6 Jun 2006 | Cpl. Antonio Rosas

When he joined the Marine Corps in 2002, Cpl. Joshua W. Dale never thought he would be using his welding experience to defeat insurgents in western Iraq.

The 23-year-old section leader with A Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, brought his ideas to life by inventing a breaching bumper for a humvee in his mobile assault platoon.

The breaching bumper is mounted on the front of the humvee and resembles a large arrowhead made of thick steel. The bumper is used to do one thing – tear through anything that gets in the humvee’s way.

“We needed something on our humvees to assault through barriers, like locked gates and low brick walls,” said the Silver Street, S.C., native. “This bumper will go through just about anything.”

While the bumper has not been tested as of yet, other similar devices of lesser craftsmanship have proven somewhat effective. Dale wanted to build something that would not break or bend like those he had seen crudely constructed on the fly by other Marine units.

The bumper, which allows humvees greater flexibility when assaulting the enemy during raids and cordon-and-knock operations, is an alternative to using any type of explosives – the norm when Marines encounter barriers or walls.

“When you use explosives you risk alerting the enemy from the loud noise of explosions,” said Dale. “With this breaching bumper you can rupture barriers and overcome obstacles in less time and without giving away your position to the enemy.”

Use of the bumper on barriers also minimizes collateral damage - a priority for the Marines conducting security operations alongside Iraqi Security Forces in Iraq’s western Al Anbar province.

Nicknamed ‘the destroyer,’ the bumper is a major asset for mobile assault platoons, or M.A.P. – a security element of Marines in armored humvees with an assortment of infantry weapons. A M.A.P. provides a heavy presence in the community and is used to disrupt enemy operations.

Marines in the region use the mobile assault platoon to provide a steady presence in local communities and to weed out insurgents hiding in local towns, said 1st Lt. Paul D. Quinn, the M.A.P. officer for A Company.

The 24-year-old from Burkittsville, Md., supports Dale’s project as it will allow his Marines greater flexibility in performing their job quicker and overcoming obstacles without the use of explosives.

Spending less time tied up with barriers during operations allows the Marines to meet their objective of providing mounted security for ground forces a lot more effectively, said Quinn.

While coalition forces throughout the country already have similar devices mounted on their humvees, Dale wanted to improve on the existing design and use stronger materials.

“I still wanted something that was sturdy enough to rip through just about any barrier the platoon would encounter,” said Dale.

“The bumper is incredibly strong,” said Navy Chief Petty Officer (Seabee Combat Warfare) Charles B. Scholl, a U.S. military reservist and steelworker with 20 years of experience.

Scholl, from Moundsview, Minn., provided Dale with a few pointers on welding techniques.

“The design is structurally sound,” said Scholl. “He used the same type of structural steel that we use to hold buildings together.”

In order to take the ideas from the drawing board to the shop floor, Dale was going to need time away from his platoon – something he wanted to avoid.

It was only after breaking his foot while performing maintenance on his humvee that Dale found some time to bring his ideas to life and start on his project.

“I drew up blueprints myself and despite not having the right supplies and tools, I made it work,” said Dale who spent several years welding before joining the Marine Corps.

Dale said he never saw himself using his welding skills in the Marine Corps. He joined the Marines to fight insurgents, he said.

“I want to make it clear that I am a grunt and not a welder,” he said.

After installing the device, Dale’s invention attracted the attention of other mobile assault platoons from the battalion who deemed the breaching bumper a worthy asset to their humvees. However, before Dale can mass-produce additional bumpers for his team he must await the thumbs-up from top-level Marine commanders at I Marine Expeditionary Force.

Once Dale receives permission from superiors, he plans on outfitting the humvees in his platoon with the breaching device. With the right supplies, Dale said he can produce about four bumpers a week.

Dale is confident that his idea will gain approval from officials as he considers the apparatus a great tool against defeating the insurgency in any area of operations.

Until then, he says he’ll continue to weld when he can, providing the Marines who travel Al Anbar province’s dangerous roads daily with one more tool to help them get the job done.

Email Cpl. Rosas at rosasa@gcemnf-wiraq.usmc.mil