These are the baddest asses on the battlefield.
Trivia Question: What is the only unit to have gone in at both Omaha and Utah beaches at the same time?
[cue jeopardy theme]
Oh, I'll go ahead and give you the answer: 299th Combat Engineer Battalion.
AL ASAD -- Whether it is building or renovating, combat engineers are always working hard to ensure that service members have what they need to make work or life a little better. Recently, the Marines of Marine Wing Support Squadron 271 took on a mission that has an affect on service members throughout Iraq.
The engineers of MWSS-271 have started the Rapid Runway Repair project, which is designed to fix problem areas on Al Asad’s runways.
“The problem is that there are holes in the runway from where the concrete expands and contracts from the heat and it starts breaking up,” explained Sgt. David Poole, a combat engineer for MWSS-271. “When you have holes in the flightline, the planes have trouble landing or taxiing.”
The repair on Aug. 11 was the second of many upcoming repairs that will be conducted by the ’271 engineers. The repairs are completed in small sections, so that they do not interfere with normal operations.
“We go in and cut out the portion that is starting to come up where there are holes and we jackhammer all the stuff out and put in pavement, which is runway repair material,” said Poole. “It gives it a solid surface and stops it from cracking.”
The engineers have primarily been focused on minor projects around the base, before starting on the runway repair.
“We have been building SWA huts, gyms for units, a detention facility for (the Provost Marshal’s Office), just small construction projects,” said Poole. “It’s a big change, definitely different. It’s part of our job and I feel like I’m really doing my job out here doing (runway repair) because I know it means something.”
Although the MWSS-271 engineers have primarily been tasked with small projects, their performance during the first runway repair was the catalyst for more work.
“They finally decided to give us a shot at it to see how we could do it, and we ended up doing it ahead of schedule,” Poole explained. “We had two nights allotted to us on the flight line, where they shut it down for us, and it didn’t even take one full night. So now they see that we can and we are going to be repairing a lot more.”
Just like any other group of Marines in the Corps, the engineers attribute teamwork to their success.
“Everyone gets along well and knows their job” said Poole. “It’s all planned out before we get out there, so everybody knows exactly what they will be doing and when they’ll be doing it.”
If planes cannot land or taxi, then supplies cannot get where they need to be in a timely matter. The engineers understand and relish the fact that repairing the runway is essential to the overall mission here.
“(Rapid runway repair) is one of the only projects that’s an asset to the (whole) base,” said Cpl. Jessica Torelli, a combat engineer for MWSS-272. “We usually work fast and efficiently. When things need to be done, we work together pretty well.”
The first two projects went well and the engineers plan on continuing their success, according to Poole.
“We have a couple more missions signed up and all the Marines are excited.” said Poole. “This is important to the overall mission in Iraq, its not like building a desk for somebody. We are doing something that is going to be noticed and needed for the mission.”