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Marines serving with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion and 7th Engineer Support Battalion demonstrate bridging capabilities at the Camp Del Mar basin here, May 16, 2013. The Improved Ribbon Bridge is designed to carry heavy vehicles including the M1A1 Abrams Tank. During the demonstration, the bridge supported an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge traveling into the basin.

Photo by Cpl. Timothy Lenzo

No river wide enough: Marines demonstrate bridging capabilities

20 May 2013 | Cpl. Timothy Lenzo 1st Marine Division

Marines serving with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion and 7th Engineer Support Battalion set up an Improved Ribbon Bridge with Bridge Erection Boats and an Armored Vehicle-Launched Bridge as part of the battalion’s continued effort to crosstrain their Marines.

Marines presented their bridging capabilities to various unit leaders with 1st Marine Division at the Camp Del Mar boat basin here, May 16.

The AVLB is recognized with a collapsible bridge folded over the vehicle. Like the IRB it is designed to carry the heaviest of Marine Corps equipment and vehicles, including the M1A1 Abrams Tank.

“The AVLB is a 70-ton bridge, which means it can carry anything less than 70 tons,” said Sgt. Andrew McClure, an AVLB vehicle commander serving with 1st CEB.

The IRB is actually separate pieces that fit together to form a bridge or raft. A BEB is the boat that attaches and controls the bridge. Typically there is one boat for every five pieces of the bridge.

Marines used the IRB to ferry the AVLB around the basin before returning and unloading it.

“After the ferrying process, we beached the raft and the AVLB debarked onto the beach and employed its own bridging capability,” said 1st Lt. Nick Martino, the company commander of Bridge Company, 7th ESB. “It demonstrated how each vehicle is used and what they bring to the fight.”

Marines used both vehicles during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While used often in Iraq, Marines deployed to Afghanistan can only see the IRB employed in one area of the Helmand River, said Martino, a native of Kinderhook, N.Y.

“We took the AVLB on a lot of convoys,” said McClure, a native of Boise, Idaho. “It was always there and ready for when we needed it.”

When operating in a combat environment, the ability to cross obstacles that would otherwise be impassable helps Marines accomplish their various missions.

“The bridging asset gives Marines the ability to cut their timelines down,” Martino said. “Instead of bypassing and adding hours and potentially days into a movement or convoy, Marines cross where they want to cross.”

The AVLB is not only used to cross bodies of water. Its bridging capabilities are used to cross dried canals, tank ditches and other natural and enemy designed obstacles McClure said.

While Marines use both the IRB and AVLB during combat operations, their ability to form bridges or ferry vehicles and personnel across obstacles helps in other noncombat related operations.

“These assets can be used for humanitarian efforts and disaster relief operations,” Martino said. “If a bridge fails from say an earthquake or hurricane, Hurricane Sandy or Katrina for example, these bridges can be deployed. They’ll give civilians and locals the opportunity to continue to cross the bridge and keep people moving.”

In addition to helping evacuation efforts, the vehicles can help relief efforts arrive to the disaster site.

“Today was a great opportunity to get some crosstraining accomplished with the Marines with CEB and ESB,” Martino said. “We also refamiliarized our Marine leaders of our capabilities, both in combat and noncombat operations.”
1st Marine Division