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A Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle from Bridge Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) illuminates the bazaar near the town of Shir Ghazay during a bridge replacement project, Feb. 29. The local Afghans became concerned over the safety of the bridge after the weather had damaged the structure. In response, the Marines of 9th ESB replaced it with a more permanent solution.

Photo by 2nd Lt. Tyler Morrison

Marines heed locals’ call, provide long term bridge solution

7 Mar 2012 | 2nd Lt. Tyler Morrison

Combat Engineers with Bridge Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) completed construction on a non-standard bridge that will provide a long term solution for local traffic in the area here, Mar.6.

A previous Marine unit had built a non-standard bridge, a custom built structure, in the local bazaar to ease travel constraints in the area. Though the design was appropriate for the summer months, the harsh Afghan winter took its toll on the bridge, explained Capt. Ryan Heider, Alpha company commander, 9th ESB. The culvert that was installed underneath the structure was not large enough to allow the water from the rainy season to flow through it, and the local Afghans began to worry about the bridge’s safety.

That’s when 9th ESB took action, explained Capt. Alexandra Gerbracht, Engineer Officer, 1st MLG (Fwd).

“The locals in Shir Ghazay were concerned about the bridge, and it’s in response to their concerns that 9th ESB is taking on this mission. In all of the bridges in Helmand province, this one is not the biggest or most significant. But anything we can do to show our commitment to the Afghan people and move closer to achieving our goals in the counterinsurgency mission is crucial,” Gerbracht said.

The Marines got to work by removing the previous bridge and replacing it with a temporary, expeditionary bridge known as a medium girder bridge. This allowed the traffic in the bazaar to flow unimpeded during the day while the Marines went to work on refashioning the new non-standard bridge away from the bustle of the town.

Once night fell, the real work began as the Marines used heavy equipment to move the medium girder bridge out of the way and remove the packed soil and the culvert system from beneath the old structure.  With the soil and culvert removed, rainwater from heavy winter storms will flow unimpeded, maintaining the new bridge’s structural integrity.

1st Lt. Matthew Paluta, Bridge platoon commander, Alpha Co., 9th ESB explained that each new mission assigned to Bridge Plt. is different than the last.

“Every bridge is a unique challenge for the Marines, but they are always up for it.

A non-standard bridge is just that, non-standard, and there is no set way to do it. But the outstanding work of the Marines gets it done,” said Paluta.

According to Paluta, Sgt. Joseph Redman, squad leader, Bridge Plt., Alpha Co., 9th ESB, is one of those Marines who meets unique challenges every day. During this project, he worked with a seemingly endless reserve of energy by coordinating the work of the combat engineers and the movement of heavy equipment.

Staff Sgt. Richard Glory, platoon sergeant, Bridge Plt., Alpha Co., 9th ESB, agreed that without the work of Marines like Redman, the new bridge project would soon falter.

“The Marines are what put us on the map. They’re combat engineers through and through. The leadership at the noncommissioned officer level is outstanding.”

In the span of a few days, bridge platoon gave a new bridge to the people of Shir Ghazay that will continue to ease the flow of traffic in the bazaar for years after coalition forces have left.


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