Photo Information

Lance Cpl. William Fertch, a combat engineer with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 and a Forest Lake, Minn., native, checks on a concrete mixing machine at the obstacle course construction site aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., Oct. 24. Combat engineers work tirelessly to meet their deadlines whether building, destroying enemy explosives and mines or ensuring an area is safe for their brothers and sisters to accomplish their missions.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns

Build it up or blow it apart: a look inside the Marine Corps’ combat engineers

25 Oct 2013 | Lance Cpl. Christopher Johns 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing

Whether working on a building, sweeping an area for explosives or blowing up land mines to keep their brothers and sisters safe from harm, Marine Corps combat engineers get the job done.
These men and women have a great deal of knowledge in many fields and it all meshes together when they get the call to move out to their next assignment. Marines like those found in the combat engineer platoon with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., get down and dirty at their usually mud-covered construction sites.
“This is a very hands-on job,” said Pfc. Shaquille Ross, a combat engineer with MWSS-373, and an Allentown, Pa., native. “You have to be able to pull your own weight and learn on the fly.”
Schooling lasts two months at Courthouse Bay on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., with on-the-job training once a Marine gets to his first duty station.
When the engineering platoon isn’t on a site building something for the installation, they work in their wood shop or on demolitions ranges to keep their abilities up to par. Some lessons are better learned from those who experienced them rather than in a classroom.

“[My seniors] have a lot of wisdom and have taught me a lot since I first got here,” said Ross. “When I pick up corporal, I’ll get the opportunity to go to school again. I would love to be like them some day.”
Journeyman level schools are open to Marines at the noncommissioned officer level in order to hone their skills and effectively teach their juniors.
A love for hard work isn’t the only incentive for some of these Marine Corps builders.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to go out and build something that others will use and be able to leave our name and legacy behind us,” said Sgt. Ryan Armstrong, the construction chief for MWSS-373 and a Ceres, Calif., native. “I love getting the hands-on experience of working on a site, putting things together with my bare hands.”
For some, the best part about the job is having a hand in something being used for generations to come.
“[Some of the structures] we build are going to be around for a long time,” said Ross. “When I see them I can say that I helped build that, and that feels really good to me. It feels good to be a part of history.”
Should these men and women want to carry on in this line of work into the civilian sector, they will already have skills that will help them stand out from their competitors.
“The experiences our Marines gain from their time working in this field will help them in trying to find a job,” said 1st Lt. David Funni, combat engineer platoon commander with the support squadron and an Oskaloosa, Iowa, native. “[The Department of Defense] has an apprenticeship program called the U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program that logs the hours a Marine works and applies them to civilian apprenticeship programs.”

With a broad field of work to explore and quite a few tools of the trade to fall back on, the Marine Corps’ combat engineer comes well prepared to tackle almost any job.

Whether building a rappel tower for training purposes or sweeping terrain for improvised explosive devices, these men and women provide invaluable services to the Marine Corps and their fellow Marines; and it’s all in a day’s work.