Photo Information

Marines with Company B, 1st Combat Engineers Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, detonate an explosive charge to perform a breach and clear of a structure aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Oct. 7, 2015. Breaching and clearing involves setting and detonating an explosive charge at the entrance of a structure to engage any hostile forces that may be inside.

Photo by Pvt. robert bliss

Marines blow the door off its hinges

13 Oct 2015 | Pvt. Robert Bliss I Marine Expeditionary Force

A group of Marines stood ready on the outside of a structure, the front man in the formation slightly peered around a corner. Seconds later two Marines ran around the corner and resumed their place in the formation, one of them held a controller tied to a wire that looped back around the corner. “Fire in the hole! Fire in the hole!” The Marine holding the controller pressed down on a button, causing the explosive charge to detonate with a shuddering quake. “Go! Go! Go!” As soon as the blast went off the team of Marines rushed through the blown doorway. “Left room clear!” “Right room clear!” The Marines could be heard sounding off as they cleared the structure room by room. “Clear!”

Marines with Company B, 1st Combat Engineers Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force participated in an urban breaching exercise, Oct. 7-8, 2015. 

Urban breaching is an increasingly important skill in the arsenal of Marine capabilities. As more places around the globe experience urbanization, the ability to operate within that environment is crucial.

“Any place Marines go that has some kind of structure is where the combat engineers will go,” said 1st Lt. Hunter Wood, 2nd platoon commander of Company B, 1st CEB. “Combat engineers attach to infantry units to help breach and move through buildings. Any place that has a door is a place that we could be.”

The physical aspects to breach and clear a structure are intensive, but this type of training also showed the technical requirements needed for the mission.

“The Marines had quite a few weeks’ worth of build-up to this point,” said Sgt. Douglas Cox, Platoon Sergeant, 2nd Platoon, Company B. “They had classes, programs to familiarize themselves with military operations in urban terrain, training on building the explosive charges, and then getting to come out here and actually use the charges and learn how to breach and clear.”

The training and application is abundant for the exercise, and the Marines performing the breach must be capable of moving as a single, cohesive unit. Breaching a structure is a team effort that requires the Marines involved to work hand-in-hand to accomplish the mission.

“I’ve gotten a lot closer with my squad from doing this,” said Sgt. Andrew Smolter, a squad leader, 2nd Platoon, Company B. “This is the first time I’ve been a squad leader for urban breaching. It has helped develop my ability as a leader to help train my Marines so that when the time comes to do this for real, we know exactly what we’re doing.”

Field exercises like these allow Marines to adapt to changing scenarios on the battlefield. As the world grows and gives way to more urban environments, Marines continue to train and develop tactics to be an effective force within each theater. Abilities such as breaching and clearing, and moving as a single unit with a clear objective, are ways Marines develop the capability to complete any mission they are tasked with.