CAMP HABBANIYAH, Iraq -- Marines with 8th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group recently assisted the 2nd Marine Division Training Center by building four live-fire ranges.
The Heavy Equipment Platoon with 8th ESB was tasked with improving the DTC’s 300 meter range and building two additional 300 and 50 meter ranges by Dec. 1.
When the DTC began preparing to instruct Iraqi soldiers, a need for more live fire ranges was identified because their training required them to practice their marksmanship. Originally, there was a test-fire range into an old hangar and a 25 meter zero range.
A range modernization proposal was developed, resulting in the II Marine Expeditionary Force issuing a Frag Order for the construction of additonal ranges and improvements on the existing range.
According to the 2nd Marine Division Gunner, Chief Warrant Officer Terry L. Walker, the ranges were created for two reasons. First the DTC, Iraqi Army’s 1st Division and coalition forces would need them for training. Second, Habbaniyah was designated as the Iraqi Regional Training Center.
Construction on the ranges was completed a day ahead of schedule on Nov. 30. It involved knocking down the existing 25 meter range, adding layers of dirt to the protective berm surrounding the range and increasing it to a height of 15 feet. The other four ranges were built from scratch. The Marines needed an estimated 25,000 loose cubic yards of dirt per range. The whole project involved the moving, packing and shaping of approximately 120,000 loose cubic yards of dirt.
Surveyors provided the dimensions and the direction of the ranges prior to the start of construction.
“When building a range, you first have surveyors come out and give us the lanes of fire, elevations and how much cut and fill is needed,” said Staff Sgt. Julio E. Aguilar, the Staff Noncommissioned Officer in Charge of the Heavy Equipment Platoon. “That way, when the students are shooting, they are shooting at a half percent grade down. This helps with one of the biggest concerns, which is shooting over the berm.”
Now the actual building commences.
“We build a base with the scrapers,” Aguilar said, explaining how they create a range and the equipment used. “Then we begin laying the dirt for the berms with the scrapers as well. We can take them up safely to about 12 feet with the scrapers. Then we use the five-ton dump trucks to build the caps, which is the remaining three or four feet.”
According to Aguilar, the building of the ranges went smoothly because of the type of dirt they had to work with.
“Some places we have built stuff like this was very dry like sand. Here we got lucky,” he said. “It is good quality dirt, which compacts great because it has a lot of moisture. So that made it a whole lot easier to build the ranges because we could weigh down the equipment with full loads without them getting bogged down.”
It wasn’t entirely easy going though. The smaller ranges provided an added level of difficultly to the project.
“The 50 meters were the hardest ones because they were already six feet down where they wanted it,” Aguilar explained. “So first we had to build up six feet. Then after that, we had to start our normal measurements. From there, they we were at full throttle to get it done.”
A crew of 19 Marines, consisting of heavy equipment operators, motor transportation operators and two mechanics, worked nonstop every day from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“We racked up 620 man hours per Marine,” Aguilar said. “They were fabulous. None complained and when we tried to put them on a rotation, none of them wanted to do it. Also for once the equipment operation hours matched the man hours, which means the Marines got some good time actually operating equipment.”
With these ranges completed, the DTC looks to the future.
“Habbaniyah is designated as a Regional Training Center,” said Walker. “It is going to need these ranges and additional ranges in the long term. There will be a well of range support needed in Habbaniyah as we bring on additional units and capabilities.”