HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
Approximately 40 combat engineers and engineer equipment operators with Combat Logistics Battalion 3, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), completed repairs to more than 10 miles of roadway in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Feb. 3.
The road spans nearly 20 miles along the Helmand River and is considered the busiest stretch of road in all of Helmand province. Areas near the Helmand River are densely populated with Afghan citizens who use the road as a means to transport livestock, agricultural equipment and other commercial products. Coalition units also rely heavily upon the road to conduct combat logistics patrols to resupply forward operating bases.
However, the frequency of use throughout the years had damaged several portions of the road, which forced larger vehicles to find alternative routes to reach their destinations, said Staff Sgt. Julio Z. Castro, project foreman, Engineer Company, CLB-3, 1st MLG (FWD). In order to alleviate these issues for military units and Afghan citizens, CLB-3’s combat engineers began repairing the route in November.
After three months of work, the combat engineers had successfully completed repairs on more than 10 miles of the road. These repairs included widening and leveling the road by installing more than 700 meters of retaining walls for reinforcement, constructing several bridges over waterways and spreading approximately 30,000 cubic yards of gravel for stability.
“The purpose of this mission was to make the route trafficable by any kind of vehicle – military or civilian,” said Castro, a native of San Antonio. “It is the most significant road in this province. I liken it to the Interstate 5 highway system in California – it’s the main north-to-south route in the area. Now, anyone can pass from the northern part of Helmand to the southern part without having to worry about getting stuck or rolling over into a canal. This road will last for years and our work here will leave a long-lasting impression on the people of Afghanistan.”
From a military standpoint, the road project not only increases the capability of military traffic, but in some cases, it completely opens it up, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Anthony J. Reiter, engineer equipment officer, Engineer Company, CLB-3, 1st MLG (FWD). The road will also have a positive economic impact now that commercial vehicles have easier access to transport goods and provide services to areas in southern Helmand province that had previously been inaccessible by large vehicles.
“With the [newly-repaired] road, we’ll start to see ripple effects with increased commerce in certain areas, which will provide the Afghan people with the ability for [economic] growth,” said Reiter, a native of British Columbia, Canada. “Beyond that, it also impacts the trust and confidence that the local Afghans have in the U.S. military. From a counterinsurgency perspective, our work has a larger effect on the Afghans’ desire to help us rid the area from any Taliban control. In the three months we were working, we definitely saw an improvement in the local Afghans’ perception of us.”
“I’m very proud of the road project, but I’m as proud with the relationships we were able to build with the local community,” Reiter continued. “I believe the Afghans can see how the U.S. influence can improve their quality of life compared to their lives under Taliban control.”
With the repairs, completed the route now fully extends 20 miles – connecting several villages and patrol bases along the Helmand River. With the increased mobility, coalition forces hope to continue improving the lives of Afghan civilians in southern Helmand province by driving out Taliban forces and conducting even more civil-development projects.