JTF-N is based out of Ft. Bliss, Texas, and primarily supports our nation's federal law enforcement agencies in the identification and interdiction of suspected Transnational Criminal Organizations' activities conducted within and along the continental United States.
This project requires two main efforts, the general improvement of roads and the construction of concrete low-water crossings. In a dry desert environment such as El Centro, an otherwise insignificant rainstorm can wreak havoc on roads.
Staff Sgt. Carlos Rodriguez says that he and his Marines have had to move mountains. Rodriguez is the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Headquarters and Support Company, 7th ESB.
"We remove a lot of unprocessed earth, sort it out and then use the processed dirt to cover the road with a 4 inch top coat of aggregate before we lay the concrete," explained Rodriguez. "One of the biggest challenges we've had out here was the hill next to the road, it used to be a mountain. We removed nearly 14,000 cubic yards of dirt from that to create a proper slope on it."
With the help of heavy equipment operators on site, this endeavor has been the less difficult of the two.
"We have four major concrete pours going on here," said Cpl. Blaine Molten, a combat engineer in Bridge Company. "Some are for low-water crossings and some are just slabs where the road is too rough."
The engineers are pouring the concrete in sections to allow them to work consistently and not interfere with another section that may not be finished drying, explained Molten. The crossing is comprised of three sections measuring 70, 130, and 140 feet.
Many of the engineers are working with concrete for the first time, and this opportunity has allowed them to gain a new skill they can carry with them into future exercises and missions.
"As 1371s [combat engineers] we don't often get to use concrete," said Molten. "So this has been an eye-opener on the capabilities of concrete; how to use it, how to pour it and how to make the frames for it. All the small details that you wouldn't think are important play a big factor in how concrete will lay and set."
Rodriguez said he's been pleased to see his Marines working together during the project despite doing work they are unfamiliar with, alongside people they don't always work with, and all while in an unforgiving environment.
The difficulties were well worth it and have paid off in Molten's eyes.
"Overall I think we've been very successful and everyone's gained a lot of knowledge that I don't think they could've gotten anywhere else than here."