Story and photos by MC2 Matthew Snodgrass
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Marines with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), and Seabees with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4 held a “golden spike” ceremony to celebrate the completion of route red west, in Now Zad District, Helmand province, Aug. 5.
Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, Commanding General of Regional Command Southwest, was on hand to praise the engineers for their hard work in completing the 27 km road, which links Now Zad to Shir Gahzay.
Chief Warrant Officer Brandon Smith, the engineer equipment officer for 7th ESB, and a Kalispell, Mont., native, said the ceremony was a great way for Toolan to meet the engineers and Seabees who made the road possible.
“It was a great time,” said Smith. “General Toolan shook hands with the workers and gave out coins. The engineers are proud of the work they’ve done here, and it was good to see our work was appreciated by the general.”
Route red west is a vital link for the local Afghans in the area for travel and commerce.
“The road connects two population centers, which means these people now have a means to commute freely,” said Smith. “President Karzai has said that roads are a vital step to the modernization of Afghanistan. Roads give the Afghan population freedom of movement to connect with each other.”
The Marine and Navy engineers respect and appreciate one another’s efforts in completing the seven month project, which will increase the freedom of movement between the two cities.
“The Marines were an important part of this construction project and did an outstanding job,” said Lt. j.g. Steven Bischak, the detail officer in charge, and a Stockdale, Texas, native. “We worked well together to get the job done.”
“The Seabees were working here before us, and they’ve been here throughout the whole process,” said Smith. “We both put in long days and the job’s success really reflects that. Both teams did an outstanding job.”
The road construction process also allowed the Marines to interact with the local Afghan population.
“The Afghans were hesitant to talk with us at first, but once they saw the work we were doing for them, they started to approach us,” said Staff Sgt. Alberto Reategui, Security Force Commander for 7 ESB, and an Oceanside, Calif., native. “Some of the Afghans have even given us information on insurgent activity in the area.”
The engineers also helped the local Afghans with machinery and equipment problems, said Reategui.
“It’s very much a give-and-take relationship,” he explained.
The completed road is a positive example of the progress the Afghan nation has had due to ISAF forces ensuring their security, said Smith.
“We’re here to make a positive impact on the people of Afghanistan,” said Smith. “By increasing their security and improving their living conditions, we’re making it easier for them to live freely. This project makes that goal a little closer to being attainable.”
High resolution photos available here.