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Combat engineers coduct mock cache sweep at Mojave Viper

12 Mar 2009 | Lance Cpl. John McCall

Combat engineers with Company A, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division participated in a mock cache sweep here March 12.

One of many exercises for these combat engineers who are currently undergoing the Marine Corps’ most high-speed pre-deployment training package called Mojave Viper.

“The goal is to teach Marines what to do when an improvised explosive device is located and needs to be removed,” said Sgt. Beu Varner, a combat engineer with 1/5.  “They need to know how to handle the situation so they can protect themselves and those around them.”

Marines used minesweepers to until discover mock devices. Once found, the Marines dug it up using an entrenching tool and their hands.

“When they find something that needs to be taken out we dig it up and remove it,” said Lance Cpl. Robert Gregg, a 19-year-old combat engineer assigned to 1/5 from Waynesburg, Penn. 

Once the explosives are unearthed combat engineers have to make sure the object isn’t “booby-trapped” and dispose of the dangerous materials.

Deciding what to do with the explosives once they’re uncovered is the most dangerous part of the job, said the combat engineers.

A common piece of garbage like an Meal-Ready-to-Eat wrapper is often used against the troops, causing them to think its safe because of the recognizable packaging.  This makes improvised explosive devices tougher to spot.

“They can make an IED out of anything,” said Pfc. Ryan Schuenke, a combat engineer assigned to 1/5.  “A lot of times they use our own materials against.”

Combat engineers not only deal with explosive ordinance removal, they are also responsible for constructing buildings and bridges that support their fellow, allowing them to complete their mission.

“We do a lot of construction, demolition and bridge building,” said Schuenke, a 19-year-old from Jefferson, Wis.  “We don’t just dig up bombs.”

Combat engineers continue to sharpen their much needed skills during Mojave Viper, ultimately to prepare for a deployment to Afghanistan with 1/5 in the coming months.