CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan --
The Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) are still hard at work, engineering the structures needed for forward deployed Marines to conduct counter-insurgency operations.
7th ESB Marines continue to stay focused on their mission, whether it's putting up a security patrol base, building a bridge or erecting Southwest Asia huts, also known as "SWA huts."
As of April 1, 7th ESB Marines had built 23 SWA huts, which are 16-feet by 32-feet wooden structures and are designed to be used as office spaces or billeting, according to Master Gunnery Sgt. Roger Reed, operations chief 7th ESB.
The Marines have also built eight "Davidson" buildings, which are bigger versions of SWA huts, measuring at 32-feet by 64-feet. With about 30 Marines, they take about a week to construct, said Cpl. Donald L. Luke, combat engineer specialist with 7th ESB.
Luke helped build several SWA huts during his deployment to Iraq, but the engineering focus here in Afghanistan is a little different.
"[During] my first deployment to Iraq, we built a lot of SWA huts like this," said Luke, 23, from Lima, Ohio. "But since we've been here, we've done more patrol base constructions than building these huts."
As more troops pour into Afghanistan, more security is needed, not only for the service members, but also for the Afghan locals, which is why 7th ESB also builds patrol bases. To date, the Marines have constructed seven patrol bases, typically designed around the needs and wants of a platoon-sized element to provide a defendable, functional position. The engineers are able to build these patrol bases within 48-72 hours, said Reed.
"Since we got here in November, putting up patrol bases is what they [the Marine Corps] needed us to do," said Luke. "Mostly because the area hadn't been secured yet, so the locals were afraid to send their kids to school because they feared the Taliban in the area. We built these patrol bases to provide security, for us and for the locals. So the kids can go to school and get their education."
With attacks and ambushes by insurgents, timeliness becomes a factor in these engineering missions, which they push their Marines to the limit on all missions, said Luke.
"Once they're done with a given task, they'll help out the others or pick up another task to do, and try to complete the mission as quickly as they can," he said. "Sometimes, they'll push themselves to work up to eighteen hours a night just to complete the project. So the Marines are always busy at all times."
Even though they're leaving soon, 7th ESB Marines will undoubtedly leave an indelible mark with every SWA hut and patrol base they have built.
"We're here to build whatever they need us to build," concluded Luke, "whatever needs to be done."