Reserve Marines with Engineer Services Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 23, Combat Logistics Regiment 4, 4th Marine Logistics Group, teamed up with the United States Forest Service in Bend, Oregon, to participate in their annual training exercise and assist in completing various projects to better the community, specifically in Willamette and Deschutes Valleys during Exercise Forest Rattler, July 13-26, 2016.
Mission Essential Tasks
The Marines assisted the forest service with several projects to improve the community while utilizing the opportunity to provide the Marines with realistic, cost-effective annual training. The Reserve Marines worked closely with the U.S. Forest Service over the two-week annual training period to complete multiple tasks including avian mitigation to reduce waste produced by birds entering an open roofing area, construction of a new storage shed to house all-terrain vehicles and extra equipment for the Forest Service during the winter, in addition to grading, rocking, cleaning culverts, cutting danger trees that can fall and block the roads, and repairing roads the community uses.
According to Maj. Justin DiRico, commanding officer of Engineer Svc. Co., CLB-23, CLR-4, 4th MLG, MARFORRES, the focus of these projects is to ensure the Marines were trained in completing horizontal and vertical construction. Horizontal construction includes maintaining roads, which translates to keeping a supply route open to support a ground combat element and supplying them with logistics trains in a combat situation. They are also focusing on vertical construction projects where they are working on building upward while utilizing their carpentry skills, and learning how to complete a quality project.
“When these Marines are able to take these projects slow down a little bit and make sure our quality is 100 percent it allows them to see what a finished product looks like when there is no stress involved or expedient factor,” said Sgt. Jamieson Reed, construction foreman, Engineer Svc. Co., CLB-23, CLR-4, 4th MLG, MARFORRES. “That way when we get to theater and we have to be expedient with our work the Marines already know from their experience what the end result needs to be and are able to make those judgment calls to make it happen in an expedient manner.”
In addition to honing their skills as an engineering battalion, the Marines also worked on all aspects of being an engineering company including setting up camp support to include generators to cool their tents and provide power, water purification, a laundry system, and showers.
To ensure all of the assigned tasks are completed the Reserve Marines are not only tapping into their military training but into the unique training and experiences they bring from their civilian careers.
“It has been extremely beneficial to see junior Marines pulling from their personal experiences in their civilian jobs and helping train their peers and even higher ups that don’t have the same experience in the civilian world as them,” said Reed.
Ready to Fight
Though many of the Marines have experience in the projects they have been assigned to complete, the exercise ensures they continue to have the skills to fight accomplish the mission in combat if the need ever arises.
“The Willamette National Forest has over 6000 miles of road in the forest alone, a lot of those roads are in disrepair and they don’t have the money to keep them up, so it allows us to do that work to help them maintain those roads but also give our Marines an opportunity to operate that equipment, and that is the critical aspect of our training, that stick time on the equipment,” said DiRico. “So the more time we can get them in the training area on the equipment the better and we are doing our mission essential tasks, we are doing horizontal construction, were also replacing culverts, we are tasked with keeping roads clean of debris and drainage. We are doing the things we are tasked to do and what we would be able to do in combat if we were activated.”
While the Marines utilize this training to stay prepared they are also benefiting from the relationship they are building with the U.S. Forest Service to help ensure they are able to get as much training as possible during their AT.
According to DiRico, the relationship with the Forest Service is an important aspect to guaranteeing the Marines are getting the training they need to stay prepared. The Marines normally travel seven and a half hours in a tactical convoy from to Joint Base Lewis-McChord to conduct training. The trip alone uses up at least two days of travel taking away from essential training time for their engineers. By working with the Forest Service they only have to drive a total of three hours which reduces safety concerns and cuts down on fuel costs.
The relationship built with the U.S. Forest Service has been a crucial component to the well-rounded training the Marines are receiving during their AT, allowing the Marines to maintain the ability to have the same skill set as their active counterparts and give back to their community at the same time.
“The Marines of this unit are held to the same training standards of Marines on active duty so sometimes it is very difficult to put a check in every box for the training that is required of us. So a job like this allows us to train to our full capability and complete many facets of our job while at the same time giving back to our local community,” said Reed. “Several Marines live in this town in particular, and a high percentage of our unit lives in the state of Oregon or at least nearby. In turn it also saves tax payers money because we are pulling together resources to do one job instead of us paying to train our Marines for a structure that may be temporary, and the forest service eliminates having to pay for someone to come in and then pay for a structure that we can build for them.”
The local community in Oakridge, Oregon also utilizes some of the roads running through Willamette National Forest when the main road is not accessible. The Marines repaired four roads, improving them and ensuring the community has easier access to the roads.
“This road is actually a backup road for the main road that is on the other side of the river so if there is a crash, accident or landslide this road is used a lot,” said Lance Cpl. James Hilary, a heavy equipment mechanic with Engineer Svc. Co., CLB-23, CLR-4, 4th MLG, MARFORRES. “But it has been a rough road and hasn’t been repaired in a long time, so the locals are pretty excited we are out here fixing it and all I have heard from them is ‘it is awesome and a lot better than what it was.’”
The newly established relationship is now allowing projects to be completed that would not have been accomplished due to a lack of funds or manpower.
According to Lisa Anheluk the facilities engineer and program manager for the Deschutes National Forest, this relationship permitted the forest service to cut back on contracting out the projects while also it providing a great training opportunity for the Marines.
“When this opportunity came up it was a win-win for both of us, a training opportunity for the Marines here locally so they didn’t have to travel as far as they typically do, saves gas money, keeps community money in as far as getting the local supplies. It was great opportunity to accomplish both of our goals at the same time,” said Anheluck
The Reserve Marines and Forest Service plan to continue to take advantage of this new partnership and hope to continue to work together in the years to come.
“Our goal is to have this as a continuous yearly type function, so we could work out kinks this season and learn how to best operate in the future,” said Anheluk. ”Everyone has been really great to work with, very contentious, very safety-oriented and very client-oriented which is interesting because I don’t consider myself a client in this situation where we are working together. It has been a really great working relationship and we appreciate that they are here for us.”