MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina --
Marines with Bridge Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group used two M16 ramps and five M17 interior rafts to help 22 M1A1 Abrams tanks, provided by 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, cross the New River, aboard Camp Lejeune on Sept. 4, 2014.
“We support Marine Expeditionary Units when they approach a canal or body of water that cannot be crossed,” said Cpl. Victor Davis, a quality assurance noncommissioned officer with the company. “We will construct a bridge or raft and get them across to continue the fight.”
The training involves more than just loading and floating the tanks, as the raft requires significant assembly before use. The floating raft consists of 7 pieces, which take roughly 24-hours to set up with a crew of 10 Marines. Once assembled, it can support up to 150 tons, which is slightly more than the weight of two M1A1 Abrams tanks. The raft is then guided by two MK III Bridge Erection Boats, which are tethered with ropes to the sides of the raft.
“Once we assemble the five bays and two ramps in the water, we will tie two MK III Bridge Erection Boats onto the sides of the raft,” said Cpl. Brandon Rowland, a raft commander with the company. “We also have a safety boat that helps align and push the raft from the rear when tanks load on and off.”
There is a lot of timing and coordination involved with the transport operation. It takes timing, precision and proper alignment to make sure the tanks get across the water without the raft capsizing.
“One of the challenges we face when crossing the river is keeping the raft steady when the tanks board,” said Davis. “We also have to make sure they are aligned properly so the raft doesn’t tip one way or the other. The Marines guiding the raft also have to take in account the wind and current of the water which can shift the raft as it is floating.”
The training exercise serves two purposes when the tanks are involved: to sharpen the skills of the Marines in the company and to provide cost effective transportation for 70-ton fighting vehicles.
“It saves the Marine Corps a lot of money to cross the river, rather than driving the tanks across the base,” said Davis.
It takes less than an hour for the Marines to transport a pair of tanks across the approximately 2-mile wide body of water.