News: Sweathogs haul supplies to expand airfield
Story by Cpl. Isaac Lamberth
COMBAT OUTPOST SHUKVANI, Afghanistan – A convoy of vehicles with Marine Wing Support Squadron 273 cautiously trudges along the attack-prone route to Combat Outpost Shukvani, Helmand province, July 13.
The group of trucks and armored vehicles is on its fourth and final convoy to transport supplies and equipment to enlarge the base. The expansion will turn Shukvani into a forward operating base able to house up to approximately a dozen helicopters, hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel, along with personnel and equipment to support air operations.
Arriving well after dark, the Marines sleep wherever they can. Fatigued after a 10-hour drive and under the constant threat of coming under attack along the way, sleep is a welcome friend.
Once the sun rises, the Marines take in the scenery around them. Nothing is present except for several hills on the horizon and the fine powder-like sand beneath their feet. Eating a quick breakfast, they hastily begin unloading the materials they have brought with them. The Marines know the clock is ticking to expand the base.
Moving like a well-oiled machine, the Marines have unloaded all of their cargo within an hour, even as the temperature begins to creep towards triple digits. Shukvani’s unique location enables it to grow into a major hub for air operations.
“Shukvani will become a staging area for medical flights, close-air-support gunships and a hospital,” said Capt. Douglas Orr, the commanding officer for Engineer Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273.
The convoy transported mass amounts of critically-needed materials for the base expansion.
Lance Cpl. Rebecca Devust, a native of Wayne, N.J., and a driver with Motor Transport Company, Marine Wing Support Squadron 273, said the convoy transported protective barriers, firefighting equipment, electrical generators, air-conditioning units and expeditionary airfield matting.
Large amounts of Envirotac II, also known as ‘Rhino Snot,’ a substance sprayed onto the earth to harden it, was also transported. The chemical compound minimizes brownouts caused by the downwash of the rotor blades of a helicopter taking off or landing.
Within an hour, the Marines have unloaded all supplies and equipment and prepare for their return to Camp Leatherneck.
Orr, a native of Ridgeland, Conn., said Shukvani will become a major medical hub in the near future. U.S. Army medical teams will be stationed there, along with assets from Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469. AH-1W Super Cobras and UH-1Y Huey helicopters will resupply and refuel when they land there to provide close-air-support for ground units engaged in fire fights with insurgents.
Support squadron Marines have built everything on the base, from billeting to workspaces and the control towers, in short order.
“The Marines of the squadron have been doing some incredible work here,” Orr said. “They’ve had their hands in just about everything when it comes to building up this base.
We had to build a base with the capacity to support air operations into at least 2014, and I think the Marines of the squadron have done a great job in helping make that a possibility,” he said.