News: Bridging economies, communities; Marines construct long-term Afghan bridge solution
By 2nd Lt. Tyler Morrison
1ST MARINE LOGISTICS GROUP (FORWARD)
SHIR GHAZAY, Afghanistan - Combat Engineers with 9th Engineer Support Battalion completed construction on a nonstandard bridge in Shir Ghazay, Afghanistan, March 6.
The bridge is designed to provide a long-term solution for local traffic in the area.
Local commerce and the livelihood of the Afghan people is dependent on their ability to transport and trade goods and services. Time and weather deteriorate transportation systems, jeopardizing fragile local economies. That is where Marine combat engineers come in.
A previous Marine unit built a nonstandard bridge near the bazaar to ease travel constraints in the area.
Though the design was appropriate for the summer months, the harsh Afghan winter took its toll on the custom-built structure, explained Capt. Ryan T. Heider, company commander Company A, 9th ESB, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
The culvert installed underneath the structure was not large enough to allow the water from the rainy season to flow through, and the local Afghans began to worry about the bridge’s safety.
That is when 9th ESB took action, explained Capt. Alexandra M. Gerbracht, engineer officer, 1st MLG (Fwd).
“The locals in Shir Ghazay were concerned about the bridge,” said Gerbracht. “Of all of the bridges in Helmand province, this one is not the biggest or most significant. But anything we can do to show our commitment to the Afghan people and move closer to achieving our goals in the counterinsurgency mission is crucial.”
The Marines began work by removing the previous bridge and replacing it with a temporary, expeditionary bridge known as a medium-girder bridge. This allowed the traffic in the nearby bazaar to flow unimpeded during the day while the Marines went to work refashioning the new nonstandard bridge after the bustle of the town slowed down.
Once night fell, the real work began as the Marines used heavy equipment to move the medium-girder bridge out of the way and remove the packed soil and the culvert system from beneath the old structure. With the soil and culvert removed, rainwater from heavy winter storms will flow unimpeded, maintaining the new bridge’s structural integrity.
Each new mission assigned to Bridge Platoon is different than the last, according to 1st Lt. Matthew E. Paluta, a platoon commander with Company A.
“Every bridge is a unique challenge for the Marines, but they are always up for it,” he said. “A nonstandard bridge is just that, nonstandard, and there is no set way to do it, but the outstanding work of the Marines get it done.”
Sgt. Joseph C. Redman, a squad leader with the company, is one of the Marines who meets these unique challenges every day, according to Paluta. During this project, Redman worked with a seemingly endless reserve of energy, coordinating the work of the combat engineers and the movement of heavy equipment.
Staff Sgt. Richard B. Glory, a platoon sergeant with the company agreed that without the work of Marines like Redman, the new bridge project would soon falter.
“The Marines are what put us on the map,” he said. “They’re combat engineers through and through. The leadership at the noncommissioned officer level is outstanding.”
In the span of a few days, Bridge Platoon gave a new bridge to the people of Shir Ghazay that will continue to ease the flow of traffic in the bazaar for years after coalition forces have left.