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Vertical Engineers Build From the Ground Up

By Spc. Dijon Rolle, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE COBRA, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2005 – Vertical engineers from Company C, 528th Engineer Battalion, are working diligently to improve living conditions for coalition forces serving at this south-central Afghanistan base.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Staff Sgt. Toby Green, Company C, 528th Engineer Battalion, builds a wall inside a soldier's living quarters at Forward Operating Base Cobra, Afghanistan. Photo by Spc. Dijon Rolle, USA

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The Louisiana National Guard unit has been busy building housing, installing electricity, and putting up Morale, Welfare, and Recreation and dining facilities for Cobra's troops since October. The team of electricians, plumbers and carpenters travels throughout the country, bringing hardstand buildings with solid roofs where there were none before.

The group members say their mission is simple. They want to make life easier for the soldiers.

"After coming home from a mission, it's important to have a roof over your head, access to a hot shower -- the basics," said Staff Sgt. Toby Green, the company's vertical construction noncommissioned officer in charge. "It makes their job a little easier knowing that these things are in place for them. It's a touch of home out in the field."

Besides building several of the wood structures on the base, the engineers also have installed doors and roofs on existing buildings, and rewired the electrical circuits on several of them. The engineers' ongoing work is having a positive impact on everyone living and working on the base.

"I appreciate everything these guys are doing," said Pfc. Sylvester Cook, an infantryman with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 5th Infantry Regiment. "Every day, you can kind of see the base taking shape and improving. This is our home for the next few months. And right now, it's all we have, so we want it to be nice."

His company commander agrees. "The 528th Engineers have been awesome," said Capt. Josh Bookout. "We would not have the quality of life that we do now if it weren't for them and the work they do. We appreciate everything that they've done, and continue to do to improve conditions here on FOB Cobra. They've really become a part of our family."

The engineers themselves say the work they're doing is helping them just as much as it is helping the other soldiers, especially since this is the first major deployment for many members of the unit.

"It's been an experience for sure. There have been ups and downs, long, hard hours, but in the end it's worth it," said carpenter Spc. Malcolm Fussell. "I've been able to do both carpentry and electrical work, so I can help out wherever, and we can get that much more done. It's a good thing, and it makes you feel good. The guys appreciate it."

Green agreed the experience has been beneficial. "We've learned a lot, and the soldiers really appreciate what you do out here and they let us know," he said. "That goes a long way."

(Army Spc. Dijon Rolle is assigned to the 17th Public Affairs Detachment.)

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