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    Engineers pack up after seven-month Afghanistan deployment

    They Came, They Built, They're Redeploying

    Photo By Lance Cpl. Ronald Stauffer | Marines with a 7th Engineer Support Battalion detachment pose for a photo in Combat...... read more read more



    Story by Lance Cpl. Ronald Stauffer 

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces Central Command

    CAMP BARBER, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – A detachment of Marines from 7th Engineer Support Battalion has constructed success in Afghanistan for the past seven months and is scheduled to depart from Camp Barber, Helmand province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in March 2009.

    The Camp Pendleton, Calif.-based detachment arrived in Afghanistan Aug. 24, 2008, as a general engineering support attachment to Task Force 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. Task Force 2/7 was replaced by 3rd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment (Reinforced), the ground combat element of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan, in November 2008.

    Shortly after the November 2008 arrival of Combat Logistics Battalion 3, the logistics combat element of SPMAGTF-A, the detachment merged with the Engineering Platoon of CLB-3's Support Company.

    "We thought we would leave with 2/7, but we later found out that we'd be here for a full 210 days," said Gunnery Sgt. Richard J. Jennings, a staff non-commissioned officer from the 7th ESB detachment currently serving as the operations chief for Engineering Plt.

    Jennings said until CLB-3 arrived, the detachment was the only Marine engineering support group in Afghanistan.

    The detachment set out to build, and building is what they did. The small unit accomplished any challenge that arose, ranging from constructing buildings and bunkers to projects as large as whole forward operating bases.

    "I'm happy with what we could do using the few resources in the beginning, but once we got more Marines, the building went faster," said Sgt. Tommy B. Simonds, a squad leader with Engineering Plt.

    Simonds said with the support from the Marines, what they've accomplished was impressive and everyone quickly gained the experience needed to achieve success.

    "I'm happy when I go to [FOB] Now Zad because it's a 180-degree change from when I first saw it," Simonds said.

    According to Staff Sgt. David A. Proitte, the utilities chief for Engineering Plt., when the detachment first arrived some of the existing FOBs were using tents or suspended camouflage netting as housing and work spaces.

    "We gave the Marines wood structures, electricity, plumbing and a little bit of comfort," Proitte said. "We basically tore down [FOB] Now Zad and rebuilt it. Once we got out there, they loved us."

    Priotte said the larger builds occurred at FOBs Now Zad and Golestan, where they worked to improve what was already there and to provide better protection for the Marines. He said his Marines had to be creative with the limited resources, and at one point had to scrounge for material.

    Regardless, the unit's pace did not slow and could only be described by Priotte as "fast and furious."

    The detachment also took part in Operation Gateway III, a deliberate plan to clear southern Afghanistan's Route 515 of any existing improvised explosive devices and insurgent threats and place combat outposts at strategic locations along the important east-west route.

    "[Route] 515 was a big piece, and we finished it in half the time that was allotted," said Cpl. Tyler A. Blim. "It was a good time, and as a group we've accomplished a [large] part of the deployment. There's no other group here providing that kind of engineering currently."

    While in Afghanistan, the detachment also had the opportunity to work with other forces within the alliance.

    "There's a whole process of stuff that we've been enlightened to while working with foreign military," said Jennings. "It was a great experience to have an international presence, as well as getting to work with British forces on their base."

    Jennings said when he saw the opportunity to come to Afghanistan, he took it, and that even though there was no stable infrastructure here and supplies were hard to get, things got better every day. He said the biggest thanks he's received while in Afghanistan was after installing shower units at FOB Now Zad and providing the Marines there with the opportunity to take a hot shower.

    "I think we've made a difference within the area of operations, and we've done good work," Jennings said. "The Marines are really tight considering they're never worked together as a team. I think as far as the Marines go it's a small detachment and we've accomplished a lot, but we're ready to go home."



    Date Taken: 03.12.2009
    Date Posted: 03.12.2009 06:21
    Story ID: 31019
    Location: CAMP BARBER, AF 

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