NAVY NEWS, DECEMBER 2007 25
● “You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off...” The extremely effective results of a concussion blast set off by 42 Cdo Assault
Engineers to down a building used by Taleban snipers in Afghanistan – AEs Mne Troy Thorpe and L/Cpl Topsy Turner stand on the left
Life’s a blast
in the Marines
SHRUG. Grin. “We like
The Specialist Wing at the Commando Training Centre Lympstone turns the best of
blowing things up.”
the best into something even better – infantrymen honed to provide infantry support
There’s something inherently
through such skills as mortar fire, to drive the Viking armoured vehicle, or to blow
cheerful and practical about the
men in the military who blow
bloody big holes in buildings...
things up for a living. within the Royal Marines, and a “Then we had to go off doing in a hail of bricks and stone.
The Royal Marines’ Assault list of people as long as your arm what we do best – scrounging. The AEs can also bring down
Engineers are cut from the same waiting to join. And we built a camp. All the other buildings and structures that
cloth as their brethren. Sgt Dave Maslen said: “There nations there were coming to our are being used against the Royal
Hard-working pragmatic men are AE troops in all three com- camp because it was the best.” Marines in theatre.
who break into broad grins when mando units. We can either oper- These men are also the experts Ben added: “We dropped a
they talk about their job. ate together as one entity on a in lifting and shifting, whether the three-storey building that over-
AMID the cold winds of Dartmoor the assault engineers are running
These are the men who, in larger job, or on the field as a sec- intriguingly-entitled Quad Pod looked our camp that was being
through the conclusion of their last five days of AE2 training,
their own words, “build things and tion attached to one of the close which is used in cliff assault to used by Taleban snipers.”
Exercise Final Breach.
blow things up” in the forefront combat companies. shift heavy items from the beach “And we took down some trees
Stanford Farm is an isolated farmhouse on the MOD ranges in the
of the action as the battle crackles “The three key words are mobil- to the top of the cliff, or boat han- that they were using too,” added
Devon countryside, but today it is alive with the crackle of gunfire
around their ears. ity – helping our lads get to where dling as demolition charges are Troy.
and detonations of billowing smoke.
And it’s to the Commando we want to get, countermobility placed under bridges. “The other lads in the camp
Four AEs and four riflemen are tasked to take the building held
home at Lympstone that Assault – stopping the enemy getting to As 40 Commando fight in the realise that we can do a lot for
by ‘enemy insurgents’ (pictured in this column by PO(Phot) Nicola
Engineers (AEs) return through- where it needs to be, and surviv- dust and sand of Afghanistan, them to make their lives easier,”
out their careers. ability – getting the water supply there are some 15 AEs bound in to commented Ben.
As the riflemen provide covering fire, the breacher runs forward
From initial entry as Marines and drainage sorted. the units fighting on the ground. He went on: “Training teaches
and slams the mousehole charge against the stone wall of the
after eight weeks they emerge “If you go into an area and L/Cpl Ben ‘Topsy’ Turner and you a lot. Time like this out in
as AE3s, then as their careers there’s nothing there, when you Mne Troy Thorpe only returned Dartmoor is the best bit of the
It’s the final part of the five-day challenge which has seen skills
progress they work their way up get a camp up and running, and from Afghanistan in the spring, training.
in boathandling called into action on the water as the engineers
the specialist ladder to AE2 and it’s got a hundred blokes living in and are now taking their AE2 “But you don’t really learn it
planned the potential destruction of a bridge in case the territory
AE1. it, it is immensely satisfying.” course as they work their way up until you get to a fighting unit.
fell into ‘enemy’ hands.
Specialisations are not always Colprot – or collective protec- through the AE ranks. Then you realise just exactly what
A spot of cliff assault was followed by a Commando Helicopter
favoured by green berets – Royal tion – is one of the main focuses And their abilities have proven you’ve been doing.”
Force Sea King arriving to carry the green berets into Dartmoor to
Marines join the Royal Marines to for the AEs, digging trenches and popular out on the ground. “And if we get it wrong, that’s
set up an observation post over this hotbed of insurgent activity
be Royal Marines, to fight in the building walls out of nothing to Troy said: “I was doing a lot it. The full mission’s gone.”
– actually an old farmhouse.
frontline, to lead the action and safeguard the lives within. of things out there – water puri- The training for the assault
Minefields had to be cleared, and purified water provided to
dominate the landscape. “Sandbagging, when you get it fication, a lot of demolition work, engineers at Lympstone is tough,
supply the troop units that would be following behind (within the
But in recent years the AEs right it is the difference between blowing firing points for our lads with days of 15-20 hours of inten-
have always been at the front of stopping a bullet or not stopping a to fire from, and making methods sive study, practice and testing
Finally ‘explosive methods of entry’ – to use a technical but
that action and such is their util- bullet – or a blast.” of entry for getting lads in.” the norm.
graphic term – are put into practice as the AEs and riflemen blast
ity in battle that they are ever in Two years ago when Pakistan The walls in Afghanistan proved But getting it right matters. Big
their way through the insurgents’ (instructors’) ranks.
demand by commanders at the was devastated by mudslides and of sturdier stuff than the Iraqi time.
Sgt Dave Maslen grins: “Dems [demolitions] week is everyone’s
frontline. rain, it was AE green berets who compounds amid which the Royal You get it right or buildings
favourite week on the course as AE3s, because it’s the first time
The ‘breachers’ are the most spent two months over Christmas Marines had previously fought. collapse on Marines inside, you
they’ve done anything like that.
recognisable form of the frontline rebuilding lives in the area. The useful mousehole charge get it right or troops are hit by
“As courses go, although the AE1s have more info to deal with,
AE – the man who slams the Sgt Maslen said: “In Pakistan, was put aside in favour of an anti- scarce, brackish water, you get it
the AE2s course that they’re doing here today is the hardest.
mousehole charge against the wall we had two and a half months in tank barmine which successfully right or blasts shatter camp-tents
“There’s lots of learning that’s new to them.
and blasts a hole through, knock- a camp we constructed. We landed blasted through the thick Afghan like playing cards.
“Up to now they’ve been going around pulling mines out of
ing out any bad guys inside and in the middle of a mountain area. walls, dropping the Taleban inside And the AEs get it right.
the ground, but now they realise that it takes six hours to plan it
letting the good guys in.
This is no job that involves sit-
ting fat and happy back at camp
while a battle rages.
Every unit at the front will
have one or two AEs embedded
within it, men who can recognise
60 different forms of mine, who
Ballantynes of Walkerburn sculpt and manufacture a wide range
can blast a hole into a building, of Royal Navy Presentation Items which are ideal to commemorate
or bring a bridge down before the
a deployment, promotion, posting or retirement.
enemy can use it.
Not to mention that these men
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It’s a small group of men that
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