In order to do this effectively, the instructors utilize some very impressive training aids. “I liked the individual engine, transmission, and test bench we have here, because instead of having to climb all over gear and have to get into tight spaces, it lets you actually look at the whole thing from different angles and rotate around it.” said Cpl Cedessa Berg, a student from 7th Communications Battalion, III MEF Headquarters Group.
One unit of instruction is dedicated to diesel engines, during this time the students’ breakdown a standalone engine block, rebuild it and test it. At each step of the breakdown and rebuild process, instructors monitor progress and often stop the class to explain the parts and functions of inner workings in detail. After rebuilding the engines, students complete a diagnostic test to see if they correctly assembled the engine. “[Students] get to breakdown engines completely, something they do not get to do in the fleet,” said SSgt Sellers, an instructor for Engineer Equipment NCO Mechanics course, “and being able to see how an engine works on the inside is extremely valuable.” “We allow the students to fail under a controlled environment in order to let them see what they did wrong and what can happen as a result”.
A large portion of instruction is power trains where students learn power shift and hydrostatic transmissions, drive shafts, and axels. It’s important for students to learn how hydrostatics work in engineer equipment. The MF500 does just that. “[The MF500] is a scenario based simulator designed to help the students understand the operational theory of hydrostatic power trains,” says SSgt Cunningham, an instructor for Engineer Equipment NCO Mechanics course, “and we can cause certain bugs for the students to troubleshoot, diagnose, and fix certain failures.”
The largest and arguably most beneficial training aid for engineer equipment is the Hydraulic Training Center Module (HTCM). The HTCM in a 2 million dollar training aid that was fielded in May 2015, and was specifically designed by Caterpillar for the Marine Unique section to test transmissions, hydraulic pumps, and hydraulic motors. It consists of two, twenty foot containers joined together housing the main hydraulic test bench and control area. A single twenty foot container is utilized for parts and tool storage along with a generator to power the three units. “This was valuable that after tearing down a transmission, [hydraulic pump or hydraulic motor] we are able to test each part in the hydraulic test bench to ensure that not only assembly is correct, but also to ensure each component works properly and functions efficiently,” said Sgt Michael Thomas, a student from 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group. Students disassemble power shift transmissions down to each gear and bearing to get a better understanding of how each internal part works and how the transmission interrelates with connecting components. Students then reassemble the transmission and test each gear to confirm proper assembly.
While the training aids provide an effective way for students to better understand mechanical theories and functions, it is the instructors that shape the learning process. Instructors use the training aids to help the students visualize mechanical concepts and gain a better understanding of how engineer equipment works in its entirety.