COMBAT OUTPOST RANKEL, Afghanistan --
Combat engineers with Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) continue to improve mobility for Afghan civilians and the Marines of 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (Forward), near Combat Outpost Rankel in southern Afghanistan.
The engineers have already widened and leveled more than 1,100 meters of a well-traveled road and reinforced a bridge deemed too narrow for the large amount of traffic in the local community. Haji Khudairam, the nearest town, is a rural community with few passable routes for large vehicle traffic. Unfortunately, the few routes available to locals and military personnel are littered with improvised explosive devices planted by Taliban insurgents operating in the area.
“When working [24 hour operations] in an area like this, security is always a concern,” said Lance Cpl. Wesley F. Kelly, 20, heavy equipment operator, Engineer Company, CLB-3, 1st MLG (FWD), and a native of Wagoner, Okla. “We have to be on edge a little bit. It keeps you on your toes after you see and hear IED's go off in your area. You have no choice but to maintain a combat mindset.”
Despite the IED threat, or because of it, the engineers continue to improve the area’s security. According to one local citizen of Haji Khudairam, a 21-year-old male resident, the road repairs benefit the community greatly, but the presence of coalition and Afghan forces aids the people more because it provides them with a military presence that deters potential insurgent activity.
“We are very happy with the project here,” said the resident, through an interpreter. “There are more than 100 trucks that pass through this area every day, and the bridge will help. We are grateful for the Marines. Last night, I witnessed the Marines finding an IED and detonating it safely – this means lives were saved. You can look at my hands and see I am a farmer. I work this land to support my family and everyday Marines are patrolling to make sure they are safe. When [combat engineers] work all night, we feel safer.
“Whoever holds the weapons has the power, whether it is Taliban or Afghan or [U.S.] forces,” the Afghan continued. “But when those who hold the weapons have [bad] intentions, we are fearful. With the insurgent activities, we are afraid to go out at night. I hope these new projects will help bring positive change to this area.”
Though these development projects serve a dual purpose by benefitting military units and Afghan civilians, CLB-3’s primary objective is to support the units within Regimental Combat Team 1. By providing these units with greater mobility within their area of operations, CLB-3 hopes to enhance the safety and security of the Afghan community.