CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan -- The Marines of 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) transferred authority to the North Carolina-based 8th Engineer Support Battalion in a ceremony here, Nov. 25, officially marking the completion of their seven-month deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
During the ceremony, Lt. Col. Ted Adams, commanding officer, 9th ESB, and Sgt. Maj. James Calbough, sergeant major, 9th ESB, cased the battalion colors, signifying the end of their unit’s Afghanistan tour. Their replacements, Lt. Col. Christopher Downs, commanding officer, 8th ESB, and Sgt. Maj. Veney Cochran, sergeant major, 8th ESB, uncased their battalion’s colors, symbolizing the assumption of responsibility for providing general engineering support to I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) throughout Helmand province.
The 9th ESB Marines paved the way during their deployment by improving more than 30 miles of road throughout Marjah, Musa Qal’eh, Shir Ghazay and Sangin, aiding movement for both coalition forces and local Afghans, as well as inhibiting the placement of improvised explosive devices by the Taliban.
"I consider the road-improvement projects the perfect [counterinsurgency] task that has the most significant long-term impact," said Adams, 45, from Polson, Mont. "IEDs were dramatically reduced on the roads which were rebuilt. Locals benefited from road improvements, and perhaps they directly influenced the low amount of kinetic activity we experienced as well as the lack of return of IEDs."
In addition to road improvement, the engineers installed 14 bridges and culverts, and constructed six combat outposts for Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces.
"The combat outposts which [9th ESB] constructed for the ANSF supported the overall development of their capability to assume more responsibilities while being able to operate from force protected, secure facilities," said Adams.
The battalion also supported ground units by providing power, transporting 240,000 gallons of bulk fuel and more than 560,000 tons of supplies, purifying nearly 4 million gallons of water, providing thousands of self-contained shower facilities, and cleaning 72,000 pounds of laundry for Marines and sailors.
Since arriving in May to conduct general engineer support missions, the battalion has contributed significantly to the success of Regional Command (Southwest) operations.
"Their actions the past six months have undoubtedly contributed to the successes gained during this fight," said Calbough, 38, from Louisville, Ky.
The Marines of 8th ESB are poised to build on the successes of their predecessors over the course of their deployment.
"The Marines of 8th ESB want nothing more than to contribute to the [Marine Air Ground Task Force] fight in every way possible, every day possible throughout our tour here," said Downs, 40, from Catskill, N.Y.
This is 8th ESB’s second deployment to Afghanistan within the last year, added Downs.
"(The) 8th ESB returned to Camp Lejeune last year on Thanksgiving day, so it’s only fitting that we return back and raise our colors here in Helmand province again on Thanksgiving," said Downs.
The 9th ESB Marines will redeploy to their home base of Okinawa, Japan, while a company of Oregon-based Marines assigned to the battalion during their deployment will return to the U.S.