Story and Photo by Sgt. Phillis White, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS — Australian army soldiers took a break from Rim of the Pacific exercises to do some hands-on training with the 95th Sapper Company, 65th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, here.
The 95th Sapper Co. was conducting Engineer Equipment Familiarization Training on Hamilton Field, July 28, which consisted of U.S. Soldiers getting some hands-on experience with the Multifunctional Agile Remote Control Robots, or MARCbots.
Soldiers from the Australian army’s 16th Combat Eng. Sqdn., 3rd Combat Eng. Regiment (out of Lavarack Barracks in Townsville, Australia) participated in keeping with training opportunities provided by Rim of the Pacific exercises. They deployed here with an Australian infantry company.
RIMPAC, conducted biannually (every even year) under the leadership of the U.S. Third Fleet, is a multinational, combined sea mobility exercise in which the U.S. Republic of Korea, the U.S., Australia, Canada, Chile, England and Japan have participated since 1971. It’s designed to enhance the tactical capabilities, combined operations and cooperation of participating nations to improve response capabilities in the event of conflict on the sea.
“The (RIMPAC) training gave us a chance to do some amphibious conditioning to see how the other armed forces do things,” said Joel Richards, Australian army, 16th Combat Eng. Sqdn., 3rd Combat Eng. Regt.
“The exercises also increase the awareness of countries around the rim of the Pacific Ocean, so that those using the passages can ensure the safety of major sea lines of communication. The exercises are viewed as key to military readiness.”
“The (MARCbots) training that we are conducting (at Schofield) can be very beneficial in saving a life, by putting the robot in danger and not the life of a fellow Soldier,” said Spc. Thomas Witkowski, combat engineer, 95th Sapper Co., 65th Eng. Bn., 130th Eng. Bde.
Based upon the first MARCbots I model sent to Afghanistan in 2002, the first improved MARCbot IIs were sent to Iraq in May 2004. Improvements are constantly being made in direct response to Soldiers’ feedback, resulting in the current MARCbot IV model.
Developed by the U.S. Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, the MARCbot is currently being used for improvised explosive devices detection in Iraq.
Soldiers performing IED sweeps use the remote observation platform to inspect suspicious objects from a distance instead of walking or driving near the objects. The MARCbot is designed to effectively meet the needs of Soldiers during the sweeps.
The robots have the capability of observing an object at a distance greater than 100 meters. It has a low-light camera, which is nighttime mission capable. The robot’s camera can raise to a height of three feet and tilt forward as far as 1 ½ feet for viewing the tops of boxes, looking into bags and burlap sacks.
In addition to the training on the MARCbots, the Australian soldiers are also scheduled to conduct training on the demolitions range at Schofield Barracks, on with the buffalo surrogate and conducting a 65th Eng. Bn. run before they leave the island.