News: Marines work through holidays, bring gift of security to Musa Qal’eh
Story by Cpl. John McCall
MUSA QAL’EH, Afghanistan – Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, 1st Marine Division (Forward), built and improved a series of defensive positions to support 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment’s mission of keeping Musa Qal’eh safe from enemy insurgents.
The engineers established new defensive positions and improved many small patrol bases in Musa Qal’eh, by working through the holiday season, Dec. 19 to Jan. 1. The previous perimeters were built hastily with dirt berms, a less protective barrier.
“Having a berm is a good defense, but it can be penetrated, which is why we replaced it,” said Staff Sgt. Jason Pickens, 32, a platoon guide from Redmond, Oreg. “The Hesco barriers we put in provide a lot more protection and can better withstand direct fire.”
Marines relied heavily on Hesco barriers, square metal cages lined with clothe that hold dirt, to build walls and guard posts. A simple process that can take a lot of time and effort for those involved.
“It’s hard work, but it is important work,” said Lance Cpl. Christopher Mcdowell, 19, a combat engineer from Canon City, Colo. “The Marines who man the positions we built should feel safe and confident that if they are attacked they will have solid protection to rely on.”
Working all day long and into the night, engineers diligently completed their task one Hesco square at a time. Heavy equipment vehicles do the majority of the work when filling the Hesco, but engineers must set up the barriers and fill them by hand in some cases. Just knowing they are keeping their fellow Marines safer was how these Marine engineers celebrated their holidays.
“You miss your family a lot while being here, especially during the holidays since that is when you spend the most time with your family,” said Pfc. Kyle Ruth, 26, a combat engineer from Santa Maria, Calif. “The job has to get done even if that means working through Christmas.”
Engineers spent Christmas Eve filling Hesco barriers late into the night and Christmas day the work tempo never ebbed.
“Out here you sacrifice a lot of things,” Pickens explained. “Holidays don’t exist when you are trying to accomplish a mission.”
The engineers worked through the holidays, finishing up on New Year’s Day. Their Christmas wish lists and New Year’s resolutions, were one in the same – providing 1/8’s Marines with efficient protection to repel any and all enemy attacks.