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USMC Underground Defense System
by U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sixto Castro
May 17, 2022

A small company of U.S. Marine engineers on Camp Lejeune are exploring new ways to build for a future fight.

U.S. Marines and Sailors with Engineer Support Company (ESC), 8th Engineer Support Battalion, recently completed a company field exercise to experiment and gauge the effectiveness of subterranean defensive positions at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 25-29, 2022.

“I can’t tell you of another engineer support company or another unit currently in the Marine Corps that is digging in fighting positions that are interconnected with any type of piping or interconnected at all,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dario Ramirez, an engineer equipment officer with ESC, 8th Engineer Support Battalion.

U.S. Marines with Engineer Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, dig a trench for the construction of an underground bunker during a field exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 26, 2022. Engineer Support Company conducted a field exercise in order to increase readiness while providing tactical utilities and heavy equipment support in an urban terrain environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Meshaq Hylton)
U.S. Marines with Engineer Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, dig a trench for the construction of an underground bunker during a field exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 26, 2022. Engineer Support Company conducted a field exercise in order to increase readiness while providing tactical utilities and heavy equipment support in an urban terrain environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Meshaq Hylton)

In previous field exercises, Marines with Heavy Equipment Platoon would excavate and install shelters at ground level, then add cover with camouflage netting to hide their signature. However, when viewed through the lens of an unmanned aerial system, it would show that an attempt had been made to disguise their positions.

This exercise tested the skillsets of Marine engineers by challenging them to build below ground level.

“We’re conducting a three-bunker subterranean system interconnected with culvert piping,” said Ramirez. “These materials can be found anywhere around the world, and that’s why the company commander decided to choose these materials, for the availability and ability to execute this exercise to meet any mission that requires it.”

Ramirez also explained the materials could be sourced from local economies while forward deployed. The equipment required to make the defensive positions are among the smallest in the unit’s arsenal, and each subterranean defensive position could be constructed in as little as three days.

“We’re trying to think outside the box and trying new things. We’re trying to find new ways of fighting,” said 1st Lt. Muriel Waring, platoon commander with ESC, 8th Engineer Support Battalion.

The chevron-shaped subterranean defensive position hides the bunkers below ground. The carefully packed earth at ground-level camouflages the defensive position and aids the Marines in avoiding enemy detection.

U.S. Marines with Engineer Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, complete the construction of underground bunkers during a field exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 26, 2022. Engineer Support Company conducted a field exercise in order to increase readiness while providing tactical utilities and heavy equipment support in an urban terrain environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Meshaq Hylton)
U.S. Marines with Engineer Support Company, 8th Engineer Support Battalion, complete the construction of underground bunkers during a field exercise at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, April 26, 2022. Engineer Support Company conducted a field exercise in order to increase readiness while providing tactical utilities and heavy equipment support in an urban terrain environment. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Meshaq Hylton)

“The way this exercise is going to enable ESC and 8th ESB in the future is going to give us much more capabilities as far as being in the defense and being hidden,” said Staff Sgt. John Gillen, heavy equipment operations chief with ESC, 8th Engineer Support Battalion. “The purpose is to be undetected and operate in the defense.”

The defensive position highlights the Marines’ ability to be simultaneously effective and self-sufficient for future battlefields.

“Having this capability and being able to insert quickly and being able to replicate this anywhere in the world with the same equipment set and materials is definitely relevant for the future force of the Marine Corps,” said Ramirez.

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