HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Heavy equipment operators with Engineer Support Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward) began road improvements on a frequently traveled route outside Musa Qal’ah, Feb. 15.
By improving the road, the Marines are making it easier and safer for military convoys and local civilians alike to travel through the area.
In addition to the added safety the road improvements bring to the area, the mission also helps to build better relationships with the local Afghan population.
“It’s important for us to be out here doing [the road improvement] not only to make it safer for us and the Afghans, but it also helps us to improve our relations with the population,” said Staff Sgt. Aron Szekely, the mission commander for the road improvement project, Engineer Support Co., 9th ESB, 1st MLG (Fwd). “It’s beneficial for us and the locals to have better roads in the area.”
Though the road improvements will be advantageous for coalition forces and the local populace, there are still challenges the Marines face before the project is complete.
“The terrain in the area makes it difficult,” said Szekely, 33, from Tampa, Fla. “Ensuring that we keep our equipment operational so we can make the improvements is a challenge.”
According to Szekely, the Marines will improve the route by grading the existing path and leveling the terrain. Once the route is level, the potholes are filled and the hills are at a passable grade, gravel will be spread, wet down and compacted. Additionally, the Marines will add culverts under the road and ditches to the side of it to help water drainage, making the end result a much easier traveled route for tactical and civilian-owned vehicles alike.
Despite the challenges the terrain brings, the heavy equipment operators are determined to accomplish the mission.
“The terrain is rough here, but we have already improved roads in the area, and the Marines are well prepared to get this mission complete as well,” said Sgt. Guadalupe Cortez, a heavy equipment operator with Engineer Support Company, 9th ESB, 1st MLG (Fwd). “The Marines have taken what they learned from predeployment training and from the missions we have already done, and now they are really coming together. They are doing a great job.”
According to Szekely, the 10 heavy equipment operators will improve the road to make it approximately 25-30 feet wide, making it suitable for two lanes of traffic. Additionally, the Marines will make the hills much easier to climb by leveling them to a manageable angle for all vehicles.
“My team is the ‘A’ team for sure,” Szekely said. “Every single Marine has improved their ability; everyone has a drive to accomplish the mission. It makes my job a lot easier.”
When the mission is completed the Marines will have an improved route that will last long after coalition forces have left the area.
“It’s just a rewarding job,” Cortez said. “To be able to see the end result; to see the civilians using the roads we improve is all worth it.”