TRAKH NAWA, Afghanistan -- Since the removal of the Taliban as Afghanistan’s governing body nine years ago, coalition forces have helped rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, providing stability and peace to an otherwise turbulent region. Their humanitarian and peace-keeping efforts seek to bridge the divide between traditional and progressive values in an ever-changing world. For combat engineers, the aforementioned objective can be accomplished quite literally.
Approximately 40 Marines with Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), rebuilt a bridge here Oct. 27 after a local dispute concerning water privileges ended in the burning of the previous, wooden structure. Operating near Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, the engineers accomplished a dual-purpose mission by increasing mobility for military units operating in the area and improving the roadways for the local Afghan community.
In order to create a more permanent structure, the Marines opted to use a large, metallic storage container for the bridge’s foundation rather than wood. The container also acted as a culvert, allowing water to pass underneath without interference, which was vital to the project because the river system serves as the community’s primary water source.
Given the Taliban’s influence in the area, it’s important to interact with local residents to increase awareness about coalition operations and reiterate to the community that U.S. forces are here to help rid them of the Taliban’s oppression, said 1st Lt. Elizabeth Stroud, 25, engineer platoon commander, Engineer Company, CLB-3, 1st MLG (FWD).
"A lot of [the Trakh Nawa residents’] conversations were interesting," the Hutto, Texas, native said. "There is still an element of fear here, but the community interactions were still positive. They understand that we’re here to help them – not to occupy this country."
Though their primary mission was to construct a bridge, the engineers did not take the enemy threat in the area lightly. After securing the area with help from Afghanistan National Army personnel and Marines from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), CLB-3 Marines maintained security around the area’s perimeter for the duration of the bridge’s construction.
For Lance Cpl. Derek Slaughter, 23, a combat engineer with Engineer Company, CLB-3, 1st MLG (FWD), engineering missions in deployed environments are just as important as combat missions due to the physical, positive impact a project can have on an area.
"Personally, I enjoy the security element because it shows another aspect of [logistics occupations]," the Angleton, Texas, native said after providing on-site security during the mission. "Of course, I am a little nervous – a little anxious - but in the end, I am confident we’ll do what we’re supposed to do in order to get the job done."
After completing the bridge, the CLB-3 engineers returned to their base of operations, Camp Dwyer, for a debrief before beginning preparations for their next mission. For the Marines of CLB-3’s Engineer Company, the operational tempo is high and the job is demanding, but mission accomplishment and troop welfare remain top priorities.
"The [Trakh Nawa residents] were very appreciative of our efforts," Stroud said. "The bottom line is that the mission was accomplished and everyone came home safe."