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Engineers employ carpentry skills

18 Mar 2005 | Cpl. Tom Sloan

Sporadic bangs and pops echoed through an area of the command operations center here as a group of Marines, armed with hammers and nails, pounded two-by-fours and pieces of plywood together. A cloud of dust filled the room as the devil dogs turned carpenters worked.

Corporal Justin K. Goetchius and five other combat engineers with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion refurbished the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's mailroom here.

According to the 21-year-old combat engineer, he and his Marines were filling an order put in by the infantry battalion's logistics department.

"They asked us to put a roof on their mailroom so that it would be more secure," explained Goetchius, a native of Sandy, Ore., as he measured a wooden board. "We're also installing a lock on the door, too. Mail is pretty important to these guys out here."

The 2002 Sandy Union High School graduate and his fellow combat engineers labored for more than three hours on their mailroom project.

The mailroom sported a new chain-link roof and lock on its door when the work was completed.

Construction work and carpentry are not uncommon for the combat engineers with 1st CEB.

"We get tasked with all kinds of jobs like this," said Goetchius. "We're the jack of all trades for the Marine Corps."

They recently got a request from a military dog handler to build some obstacles for his canines.

"He asked us if we could build some kind of exercise equipment for his dog," said Sgt. James L. Saint. "I told him we could. We'll probably build some hurdles for his dog to jump over. Everyone in the Marine Corps has to (physical training), even the dogs," said the 27-year-old combat engineer from Big Spring, Texas.

The combat engineers brought carpentry kits with them when they recently deployed from Camp Pendleton with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The kits include hammers, nails, power saws, levels and straight edges.

"It's always good to have the kits on hand," Goetchius said. "We always end up using them to build or repair something."

The combat engineers have been busy during the two and half weeks they've been deployed. They've built several sandbag bunkers on Marine Camps and in parts of the city here, and they've also participated in patrols, he said. 

Goetchius explained the combat engineer's mission is accompanying Marines on patrols. That's where their expertise comes in handy, he said.

"We go out with different companies that request us and do (improvised explosive device) sweeps, look for weapons caches and other booby traps," he said. "After we find an IED or some other explosive, we call (explosive ordinance disposal) and have them deal with it. We just identify and give our advice on what to do. We try not to get too close, getting too close can kill you."

Goetchius did have a close call, however, when he and some of his fellow combat engineers were conducting a raid with Companies F and G, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines the first week they were here.

They were riding in humvees when an insurgent detonated a bomb on the road they were on.

"We weren't on the road for more than maybe a minute and it went off right between two of our gun trucks," he said. "It didn't injure anyone or damage any equipment, though."