All in a Day’s Work

By Dr. Andrew H. Hershey

You are the commander of a combat engineer detachment. In preparation for an upcoming offensive, you have been tasked with mobility enhancement operations along a stretch of Rte. 4, to include repairing a blown bridge across Gore Creek, a 20-meter-wide, bolder-strewn, moderately flowing watercourse. You will be operating in the security area, forward of the main battle positions, protected by mobile security forces. The road repair consists primarily of filling in shell craters and clearing fallen trees. Your detachment has just completed the bridge repair and reinforcement, making the bridge passable once again for light traffic.

Your detachment consists of three squads. Your equipment includes three chainsaws (one per squad), a 5-ton dump truck, a heavy-duty front-end loader, a 11/4-ton truck, and a 5-ton truck with a ring-mounted .50 caliber machinegun. Your detachment is otherwise armed with only its organic infantry weapons–Ml6s, M203s, and two SAWs per squad. From your HMMWV, you have radio contact with your engineer company headquarters and the infantry battalion in whose sector you are operating. You are also in hand-held radio contact with your three squads.

The area alternates between farmland and pine forest of moderate density. Near the bridge stands an old stone farmhouse whose plowed fields are enclosed by threestrand barbed-wire fence. Rte. 4 and a rutted cart track, not marked on your map or explored by you for lack of time, are the only visible avenues for vehicles. It is late January in this temperate region of the world, and while there is no snow on the ground, the sky is low and heavily overcast; back home you would say, “It feels like snow.” It is 1535 hours.

Your forces are deployed as follows. East of Gore Creek, 3d Squad is clearing tree debris from the roadside. The front-end loader waits nearby for the return of the 5ton dumper to refill it with dirt from the nearby piles. The 5-ton truck is parked just east of the bridge. Just west of the bridge, 2d Squad unloads the dumper to fill in a series of craters. Ist Squad, with the light truck, is on break next to the farmhouse. You have just dismounted from your HMMWV on the bridge to give it one last look before declaring it open for traffic. You think to yourself that medium vehicles could also cross individually at slow speed. This thought is interrupted by the sounds of an explosion and gunfire to the east. 3d Squad comes on the net: “We’re taking fire from 500-600 meters down the road. Looks like a BTR and a BMP, and I can’t really tell what else.”

What now, Lieutenant?


In a time limit of 2 minutes, issue any orders and submit any reports/request. Then provide a sketch of your actions and the rationale behind them. Submit your solution to Marine Corps Gazette, TDG #99-5, P.O. Box 1775, Quantico, VA 22134 or fax (703) 6400823.