24th MEU engineers rise above peers

22 Aug 2002 | Sgt. Bryan P. Reed

Out of 31 Marines sent to 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion's Squad Leader's Course, three serving with the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) captured the class's top honors. The 24th MEU (SOC) Marines took the Honor Graduate, the Motivation Award and the Iron Man Award.

Lance Cpl. Joshua S. Wilfong, attached to Company G, Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines, was the honor graduate with a grade point average of 92.8 in combination with a high physical fitness test score of 287 out of a possible 300 points.

Lance Cpl. John W. Gabbard, attached to Co. F, BLT, 2/2, won the Motivation Award in a vote by his peers. Lance Cpl. Stefan M. Plescha, attached to Co. G, BLT, 2/2, earned the Iron Man award by scoring 574 points total, out of a possible 600, in two back to back physical fitness tests.

The 2nd CEB's Squad Leader's Course is a physically demanding course consisting of a curriculum focusing on field-expedient demolitions, field fortification, mechanized breaching, land mine warfare, counter-mine warfare, route sweeping, route reconnaissance and barrier planning in addition to learning the mission of the squad leader, preparing warning orders and learning how to fill out various forms.

Some class highlights included a demolitions portion where Marines learned to use C-4 explosives in combination with items on hand to create charges suited to specific missions. They also built bunkers and fighting positions and constructed a log fort. During the mechanized breaching portion, Marines learned how to clear a path through a minefield for an assault force, with the use of a line charge designed to clear a path 90 meters long and 16 meters wide.

With all these activities going on and the competition so tight, these three Marines worked very hard to stand out among their peers.

"It's motivating," said Plescha. "We all worked hard and we put out all we had."

"It's good because it shows that our platoon is motivated, smart and physically fit-- well rounded," added Gabbard.

"The other NCOs in the platoon, especially squad leaders, must have had something to do with it," said Wilfong.

All three Marines agreed their favorite parts of the course were the different physical training sessions. For Gabbard it was physical training with the Semper Fit Girls.

"That was the only thing that didn't really hurt that bad." He also said Beach PT, in which the Marines did calisthenics and ran sprints in knee-deep water was among one of his favorite activities.

Plescha also said Beach PT was one of his favorite parts of the course as well as an exercise called "snakes" which is more commonly known as log PT. He also liked running with a pack on his back and the night infiltration course.

Wilfong also liked "snakes." 

"Putting the snakes (logs) to bed and waking them up every morning... It's more or less just a little shot of motivation before you start and end the day," he said.

With more Marines preparing to attend the course in the future, the trio offered these words of advice. "Make sure you know what you are getting into," said Plescha.

"My best advice would be to go PT and brush up on your knowledge," added Wilfong.

"Try to get in shape. While you are there try to stay as motivated as you can because it's going to be hard," said Gabbard. "But, you'll learn a lot and I think you will come out more confident about your abilities. You'll find out how far you can actually push your body. I'd just tell them good luck and stay motivated."