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    Patrol Base Jaker — Under construction



    Story by Lance Cpl. John McCall 

    Regimental Combat Team 3

    PATROL BASE JAKER, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan — When 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's Headquarters and Services Co. arrived at this location in mid-June, 40 British soldiers were harassed daily by insurgent gunfire. It was nothing more than a "hot LZ" according to some of the Marines here. Within a few days of their arrival, the Marines increased their numbers with elements of the battalion's B and C Companies. With stronger numbers and more firepower, the insurgents slowly began to get the point. Now, there hasn't been a firefight in the vicinity of the base since June 21. That was one week prior to the July 2 kickoff of Operation Khanjar, a major in which Marines spread across the Helmand River valley to deny insurgents freedom of movement and provide security for the people in the region.

    Today, this small outpost consisting of only enough room for the few British and Afghan national army soldiers and the reinforced company of Marines is getting a face lift.

    Marines with 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, along with heavy equipment operators from Combat Logistics Battalion 8, have been working day and night since July 29 to expand PB Jaker, building barriers and observation posts and improving overall security.

    "It was so small before. Now we're going to be able to fit a whole company in here. It's really going to open the place up," said 1st Lt. Rodney Malone, 27, a combat engineer with 1st CEB.

    Malone and his Marines have been conducting the same operation at four other forward operating bases throughout the province for nearly a month with the help of CLB-8

    "It's kind of the same basic thing," the Marine from Eden, Idaho said. "Once you get going, it's like clockwork getting all the Hesco barriers set up."

    The barriers are basically giant sand bags — metal mesh and fabric filled with dirt — that create a wall around what used be the open field that is this place. By increasing the size of this patrol base, the Marines will improve security by establishing more observation posts at locations around the base.

    "There's no standardized way to make an observation post. We try something new whenever we build, but it comes down to what we have available to us," said combat engineer Staff Sgt. Brian Polst, 27, of Edelstein, Ill.

    The new observation posts are different from those 1st CEB built in Iraq. With experience, the engineers have learned how to improve the basic design of an observation post. These new OP's will give watch standers increased visibility and more range of motion if they have to engage the enemy. There's also a bonus gift from the engineers.

    "We try to make them as strong as possible," Polst said. "Building a roof that can withstand indirect fire and sides strong enough to hold up against a rocket propelled grenade."

    Marines with 1st CEB have constructed FOBs many times before and fortified established positions similar to PB Jaker during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

    "We built up a lot of positions in Ramadi in 2006," Polst said of his Iraq tour. "It's a little different here. The area is a more rural environment. When I was in Iraq, it was an urban environment — a lot more dirt work here, building from scratch. 1/5 is trying to leave as little a foot print as possible in Afghanistan. They're trying to avoid taking over houses and buildings."

    In September, 1/5 hopes to open a local school in a building currently housing Company C. The expansion of PB Jaker will allow those Marines to vacate that building and begin improving and readying it for the first day of school.

    Once construction is complete here, the 1st CEB and CLB-8 Marines will move on to the next FOB and start making improvements there.



    Date Taken: 08.03.2009
    Date Posted: 08.03.2009 11:33
    Story ID: 37093

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