By Walter Marino
The 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion convoy stopped. The Marines looked at each other in confusion knowing that there are very few reasons a convoy abruptly comes to a halt. The machine gunners swiveled in their turrets on high alert, surveying the area.
As they traveled down the infamous road known as Route Cowboys, a road laden with improvised explosive devices, the battalion’s Marines found roadside bombs and a weapons cache.
Numerous observation posts have been built along the notorious route, developing a chain of security. Each post has sight to the next one, and with each new post comes increased road security.
The mission that particular day was to travel to three designated positions and build additional observation posts. With surveillance on the road, the hope is to decrease the threat posed by roadside bombs.
“Our goal is to get eyes in the structure to fight and to have a clear path for us and the people of Afghanistan,” said Staff Sergeant Juan A. Perez, a combat engineer. “The people see that we’re fixing roads and adding protection. It’s good in so many ways, and the Marines will have a place [to go] if they get engaged.”
Clearing the roadside bombs left the Marines several hours behind schedule, but they were determined to finish in a timely manner. They worked from early morning to late into the night on a rocky dirt path surrounded by brush, mud houses, and a murky green canal.
Shoveling mounds of dirt, placing concertina wire, and sawing lumber were just a few of the tasks Marines completed, and though tired, they didn’t complain.
“Hard work doesn’t bother me, because I know the job has to be done,” said Sergeant Jonathan J. Sanabria, a truck master. “The sooner, the better.”
Large bundles of hollow barriers were unloaded from trucks to be filled with dirt for fortification. Getting the massive amounts of dirt needed to fill the barriers was exercise.
“It’s tough, but sometimes you’ve just got to push through and get the job done,” said Lance Corporal Sherwin O. Charles, a motor transport operator. “What gets me through is seeing everyone come together… and getting the mission done.”
An interpreter working with the Marines also got his hands dirty building the posts.
“I’m always trying to help, because they’re working hard. Everyone was tired,” said Jamshid, an interpreter for the American forces. “I thought, ‘Let’s help them, because they are tired.’ I like to work with good people that work for peace in Afghanistan. One day, this post may stop some bullets and save someone’s life.”
Each post took several hours to create. But after three days of work, all three observation posts were complete and manned by infantry Marines. With their work done, the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion Marines convoyed back to their base on an IED-free route.
–Marine Corps Lance Corporal Walter Marino serves in the public affairs office of the 1st Marine Division’s Regimental Combat Team.