FORT LEE, Va. - On June 22, eight Marines became the last class of Utilities Equipment Repairers to graduate from the U.S. Army Ordnance School. While the ceremony represented the end of a 17-year joint Army/Marine endeavor, it signified the beginning of a new level of training for the Marines.

"It's a big day today, but not just because these Marines are graduating, but as the last graduation we will have on Fort Lee," said John Labriola, former course chief, and one of the original instructors who stood up the course at the new Ordnance School.

During the mid 1990's, the Department of Defense consolidated training locations for the military as a way to reduce costs. As part of that initiative, the U.S. Marine Corps' Utilities Equipment Repairer Course moved to Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., to join the U.S. Army in joint training.

As the Marine Corps adopted its own unique equipment to serve its mission as an expeditionary force in readiness, the need for a field training site and training with other Marine engineer specialties was identified. After consideration, it was decided to move the course back to where it originated from; Courthouse Bay, a small camp outlying Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C.

While the move to Camp Lejeune was being approved and facilities prepared, the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure initiative moved the Army and Marine Corps courses to Fort Lee from Aberdeen in 2009.

Although the Marines are leaving the Ordnance School's state-of-the-art training facility at the Tactical Support Equipment Department, the new Marine school will afford them the ability to train in both classroom and field environments.

"This facility is above and beyond what we could have expected when we arrived here in 2009," Labriola said. "The only thing we were missing was a field training site. It is very important for the students to get an idea of what to expect in a deployed environment."

Even though the Marines are departing the area, the long-term friendship and solid foundation between the two services will remain intact.

"As you move this course to Camp Lejeune, rest assured, if there is anything you ever need, we are here to support you," Gary Neuser, TSED director, said. "We will miss working alongside you."

The Utilities Equipment Repairer Course has graduated more than 1,700 Marines while conducting joint training with the Army.

The TSED trains Soldiers and Marines on the technical skills needed to operate, maintain, troubleshoot and repair ground support equipment. The department is organized into four training divisions and provides advanced individual training and professional military education for utilities, power generation, quartermaster and chemical equipment repairers.