Ingenuity, training key to 11th MEU (SOC)'s success

23 Sep 2002 | 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Fumbling around in the dark, the Marine frantically searches. Moving objects around, he hopes to feel the familiar texture of the object he is looking for. With all hope lost, as well as the boot band he is looking for, the Marine decides to try an alternative.

Removing the rubber band used to keep items organized in his green notebook, he carefully moves the elastic band to the top of his boot and tucks the cuff of his trouser into it. A temporary fix, but it works.

Problems like the missing boot band, and others much more complex, were not unusual for Marines of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) during a recent exercise in the Central Command area of operations. But due to the ingenuity and drive of these hardworking leathernecks, alternative solutions were discovered that kept equipment working despite harsh elements and constant use.

"Unfortunately, we can?t bring to the field all the parts for all the equipment we have out here," said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Nancy L. Levesque, maintenance officer, MEU Service Support Group 11, 11th MEU (SOC). "So we are allowed to make field expedient repairs until the ordered parts arrive."

By finding a variety of different solutions, MSSG-11 Marines were able to keep equipment running during the month-long exercise, ensuring other Marines could get the most out of the training time available.

"There are a lot of things we can do in situations like this until the parts arrive," Levesque said. "But we are limited when it comes to safety. For example, we would never do an expedient repair on a braking system."

One quick fix occurred when a coupling piece used to connect a water hose and water cooler broke, preventing the system from working properly. When the needed part was not readily available, Sgt. Casey Weigel, an MSSG-11 heavy equipment mechanic, took charge of repairs.

Once identifying the problem, Weigel, 24 and a Norfolk, Neb. native, filed the proper request for parts and then looked for a temporary fix. Noticing the neck of a water bottle looked similar to the needed coupling piece, he whittled it off the bottle with his pocketknife. When he tested the handmade piece to see if it would be a successful replacement for the broken piece, he was pleased to find it fit perfectly. The water cooler had been fixed.

Even size was not a limiting factor to what 11th MEU Marines could put back into working order. When an M1A1 Main Battle Tank suffered a leaking hydraulic line, MSSG-11 Marines quickly found a solution to bring the tank back into action. By mixing epoxy compounds to create a sealing paste and then double welding it onto the hydraulic line, the leak was fixed and the tank was up and running in no time.

Field expedient solutions were not limited to heavy equipment and machinery during the exercise. Radio operators from the Command Element, 11th MEU (SOC), challenged themselves by creating an antenna out of soda cans, wood, duct tape and slash wire that was capable of passing voice and data information via satellite. They did it just to see if they could.

"It is important we challenge the Marines to create things like this antenna," said Staff Sgt. Bruce A. Becherini, radio communications chief. "It is not difficult to do. Knowing how to do this would be important if the real antenna was broken."

Combining key knowledge learned in their military occupation specialty school and a little arithmetic, these Marines manipulated and molded ordinary objects to capture the signal of a specific wavelength.

"We were blind at first and tried a bunch of different things in order to get it to work," said Cpl. William J. Simmons, field radio operator. "When we got it to work, we were able to transmit and receive voice and data comparable to what we can with the actual AV 2040 satellite antenna."

From antennas to heavy equipment, 11th MEU Marines managed to put meaning to the phrase "doing more with less" when circumstances dictated. From simple fixes to complex solutions, nothing could stop the Marines from their ability to adapt and overcome.

Marine Corps News

Colonel Thomas M. Siverts
Commanding Officer

Colonel Tom Siverts is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in August 1989. He achieved a commission as a Second Lieutenant through the Marine Corps Enlisted Commissioning Education Program following his graduation from the University of Virginia in May 1999. Colonel Siverts has deployed in support of Operations DESERT SHIELD, DESERT STORM, IRAQI FREEDOM, and ENDURING FREEDOM. His other operational deployments include serving with Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/8, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); BLT 3/8, 22d MEU; BLT 2/8, 26th MEU, and Task Force 61/2.

Read Biography

Lieutenant Col. Steven M. Sprigg
Executive Officer

LtCol Sprigg was born in Parkersburg, WV. LtCol Sprigg enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in September 2004 and recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, SC. LtCol Sprigg was selected for the Enlisted Commissioning Program and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 2008. He was designated a Naval Aviator in February 2011 and reported to HMLAT-303 for training as an AH-1W pilot. LtCol Sprigg is currently serving as the Executive Officer for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Camp Pendleton, California.

Read Biography

Sergeant Major Travis L. DeBarr
Sergeant Major

Sergeant Major DeBarrĀ enlisted in the Marine Corps and reported to MCRD San Diego, CA, for recruit training in October 1994.Staff Sergeant DeBarr completed two combat tours in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from September 2005 to April 2006 and again form March 2007 to September 2007. While serving with 3rd Battalion, 9th Marines, First Sergeant DeBarr completed one combat deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from October 2012 to May 2013. Sergeant Major DeBarr currently serves as the Sergeant Major for the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Read Biography