FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHER WALI, MARJAH, Afghanistan --
It’s only morning and the Afghan sun is already beating down on the combat engineers who are putting up large tents at Forward Operating Base Sher Wali, Marjah, Helmand province, Afghanistan, April 6, 2010. The Marines from 1st Combat Engineer Battalion, attached to 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, have been tasked to build the tents as Sher Wali improves and expands.
Just days ago, Sher Wali’s living area was a sea of two-man tents. Those have been taken down and the base’s Marine population has moved into the much larger tents. The new structures have generators attached and contain luxuries such as electricity, lighting and air-conditioning.
“It was a really slow process at first because there’s an exterior, an interior lining, vents for all the air and then all the electrical,” said Lance Cpl. Kitt Compson, from Celina, Ohio. “The first day we started, it took us three or four hours to figure out how to put up the first tent.”
The engineers are often tasked to build all types of structures because of their problem-solving ability. This skill proved to be extremely helpful when the combat engineers had to span a bridge across a canal while taking enemy fire during the first day of Operation Moshtarak back in February.
“Building the bridge was pretty hard because they told us (the gap) was only ten to 15 feet and dry,” said Lance Cpl. Lorenzo Robles, from Anaheim, Calif. “When we got there, it was flooded with water and about 30 meters (across). We got it done.”
The engineers have played an important part in making FOB Sher Wali more secure by installing wire and Hesco barriers and rebuilding most of the security posts around the base.
“We came here and fortified everything from posts, to Hesco, to leveling out different places to make the FOB look better,” said Lance Cpl. Brandon Imada, from San Jose, Calif. “We do everything because we are a jack of all trades and a master of none.”
“We’re the only engineers out here, so if they need something built, we build it,” said the 19-year-old Compson. “Wire, Hesco, tents, whatever it is, we build it.”