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Afghan locals load and transport various crops in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 3. The Afghans in this area have begun using Route 611 more frequently due to the route repairs conducted by 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics (Forward), in support of Operation Eastern Storm. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano)

Photo by Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

7th ESB brings commerce, growth to Helmand province while supporting Operation Eastern Storm

14 Nov 2011 | Cpl. Katherine M. Solano

As Operation Tofan Sharq (Eastern Storm) continues in the upper Sangin Valley of Helmand province, Afghanistan, Marines and sailors with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), conducted multiple route repairs throughout early November.

Operation Eastern Strom began in October as the Marines of 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment routed the Taliban from Sangin to Kajaki – the last enemy stronghold in Helmand province – in an effort to secure Route 611.

The engineers moved slowly and methodically along the route between Patrol Base Alcatraz and the Kajaki Dam. The area was previously impassable in some areas due to erosion and improvised explosive device damage. Not only did 7th ESB help to improve and repair the road, but they also helped to build multiple observation posts along the route.

Along the way, there were several observation posts to be built, command outpost and a forward operating base that were all going to be constructed, said Chief Warrant Officer 3 Brandon Smith, the officer in charge of Heavy Weapons Platoon, Security Company, 7th ESB.

“1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment now mans all those positions and holds the route from PB Alcatraz to the dam so we could come in and build and repair the route,” Smith continued. “Now, commercial trucks can start transporting the proper materials and assets up to the dam for the turbine work they have to do there to start producing more electricity in the area.”

According to the United States Agency for International Development, this turbine will be the third in an ongoing project to bring more reliable power and irrigation to both Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

The additional turbine is key to growth in the area and will allow the dam to provide enough electricity to some of the farther-reaching villages of Helmand province, said Staff Sgt. Davison Slivers, the 7th ESB motor transport platoon staff noncommissioned officer in charge, as he explained how important the route improvement project is.

The work the Marines are performing in preparation for the upgrade in the region’s infrastructure has also improved relationships with the local Afghans, as evidenced by their positive reaction to the Marines and convoy operations.

“Every day we go out on the road, we see little kids, people waving. We are actually making a difference for the people here, even on a small level. We have made routes to places locals couldn’t even get to before with vehicles. It has improved a lot,” concluded Slivers.


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