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Marines Build Observation Posts Along Infamous Road

By Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Walter Marino
Special to American Forces Press Service

HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Jan. 13, 2010 – The 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion convoy stopped, and Marines looked at each other with confused looks, 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.

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Marines with 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion work into the night building an observation post in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Jan. 7, 2010. Observation posts are being built along a dangerous road to deter insurgents from planting roadside bombs. U.S. Marine Corps photo
  

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

As they traveled down an infamous road known as Route Cowboys, a road viscously laden with improvised explosive devices, the battalion’s Marines found roadside bombs and a weapons cache.

The battalion's mission was to travel to three designated positions and build observation posts along the route. With surveillance on the road, officials hope to decrease the threat posed by roadside bombs.

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.

"Our goal is to get eyes in the structure and to fight and have a clear path for us and the people of Afghanistan," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. 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 aspects, and the Marines will have a place if they get engaged."

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 did to create the posts, and although tired, they didn’t complain.

"Hard work doesn't bother me, because I know the job has to be done,” said Marine Corps Sgt. 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 can be quite an exercise.

"It's tough, but sometimes you’ve just got to push through and get the job done,” said Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Sherwin O. Charles, a motor transport operator. “What gets me through it is seeing everyone come together through that hard work, and getting the mission done."

An interpreter working with the Marines also decided to get his hands dirty.

"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 completed 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 Cpl. Walter Marino serves in the public affairs office of the 1st Marine Division’s Regimental Combat Team 7.)

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NATO International Security Assistance Force

Click photo for screen-resolution imageA 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion Marine uses a sledgehammer to knock a wooden beam into the ground for the construction of an observation post in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Jan. 6, 2010. Observation posts are being built along a dangerous road to deter insurgents from planting roadside bombs. U.S. Marine Corps photo  
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