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Marines of 9th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB), 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), assemble components of a bridge across the Helmand River near the city of Sangin, Helmand province, Afghanistan, September 20, 2010. 9th ESB Marines provide engineering support to coalition forces in support of the International Security Assistance Force.

Photo by Sgt. Brandon M. Owen

9th ESB Marines construct largest bridge in Afghanistan

20 Sep 2010 | Lance Cpl. Kenneth Jasik

Marines from 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) designed and built a new and safer route across the Helmand River here, Sept. 20.

In four short hours, 9th ESB constructed a bridge allowing for more freedom of movement for International Security Assistance Forces in the area.

“It allows for resupply of coalition forces out of Sangin and opens a new route,” said 1st. Lt. Cameron P. Wolf, bridge platoon commander, Alpha Company, 9th. ESB, 1st MLG (FWD).

The positive effects of the bridge do not begin and end with ISAF; Afghans in the area benefit as well.

Every society needs a way to disseminate food amongst the population. Previously, Afghans in the area were forced to use a costly ferry to do so, but that is not the case anymore. The 9th ESB’s bridge makes it more cost effective and safe to help get products across the Helmand River.

“The local population has very heavy vehicles filled with grain, rice and fruit,” said Gunnery Sgt. Eric J. Fears, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of Bridge Plt., Alpha Company, 9th ESB, 1st MLG (FWD). “Now they can cross the river without having to pay the high prices of a ferry.”

In addition to helping with food distribution, the bridge can serve as a more effective way for Afghans to communicate with one another.

“[The bridge] makes it easier and safer to visit friends, family and other relatives on the other side of the river,” said Cpl. Kevin S. Major, a heavy equipment operator, with Bridge Plt., A. Company, 9th ESB, 1st MLG (FWD).

The many lives now affected by this bridge build are apparent, making this mission a success, but the success was a result of 9th ESB overcoming some major friction points along the way.

When the Marines first arrived at the site, the width of the Helmand River was 147 feet. The engineers would have spent a lot of resources and time to complete their mission if it wasn’t for one corporal’s ingenious idea to close the width of the river with earth.

“It was the only thing that made sense,” said Major, 22, from Bronx, N.Y. “It had a significant impact on how much time the engineers would spend building the bridge, and it saved a lot of resources.”

The Marines of Bridge Platoon were glad Major came up with the idea that saved them time and materials.

“The fact that Cpl. Major came up with a plan to decrease the gap using minimal assets made it a success,” said Fears, 34, from Blue Ridge, Ga. “What we didn’t use for the mission can now be used in the future.”

The engineers on the project were dedicated to building the secure route, and they spanned the remaining 100 foot gap in less than four hours.

“They did awesome,” said Wolf, 28, from Florence, Ore. “The mission would not have been a success without the ingenuity, hard work and creativity of the Marines.”


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