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Afghans thankful, security better after bridge repair

By Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr. , 1st Marine Expeditionary Force

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SHIR GHAZAY, Afghanistan (March 19, 2012) — As Afghanistan continues transitioning into a stronger, Afghan-led country, Marines continue to do their part by leaving things better than the way they found them.

Marines with Engineer Support Company Detachment, 9th Engineer Support Company, III Marine Logistics Group, contributed to the transition during a two-day route reconstruction project along Route Yellow, March 13-14.

The Marines arrived on the scene, which was a dilapidated bridge and culvert system. A culvert is a tunnel built into a bridge to allow water to pass. The road leading up to the bridge was dotted with potholes and mounds of dirt. The bridge itself showed visible signs of wear and tear.

“This particular culvert turned out to be very challenging,” said 1st Lt. Steven A. Cox, officer in charge, Engineer Support Company Detachment.

This project was the most difficult repair to a bridge and culvert system Engineer Support Company has done to date, he added.

What was originally supposed to be just a culvert replacement, turned out to be a complete overhaul of the entire system.

Once they broke ground, three culverts were discovered, clearly showing the amount of water that flowed through them was immense, he said. With that discovery in mind, the original plan of one culvert was changed to installing two 24-inch culverts during a two-day project.

Shir Ghazay locals gathered around in awe as the big machines moved earth and metal to provide them with a better passage and waterway.

“It is very good that the Marines repaired this bridge. It’s important to us,” said Haji Mohammad Osman, a village elder. “I have lived here a long time, and this bridge has always been broken. Fixing this bridge has been very beneficial. We thank the Marines.”

The improvement to this road has also aided in security by opening the Afghan main line of communication, word-of-mouth.

The area where the project took place is where 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment has aided the Afghan National Army and Afghan Uniformed Police in establishing a series of security posts, said Capt. John Frerichs, commander of Company E, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines.

“After we established that initial security though, we identified that the primary route, or line of communication, for the people up into the district center, was not accessible due to the roadway. They’ve [9th ESB] been able to, with the current road project along Route Yellow, free up that as a line of communication which is really going to connect the people all the way from the Musa Qa’lah district center all the way down to Sangin,” Frerichs said.

By rebuilding this road, the people of Shir Ghazay can now easily travel to the main government district where they can vote, and local security posts are more accessible.

“Ninth ESB is critical to the success of the continuing development of relations with the people with regard to establishing critical infrastructure,” Frerichs said.

By leaving things better than they were, 9th ESB has aided the Afghan people to move closer to a more independent, self-sustaining country.