PATROL BASE NEW JERSEY, Afghanistan --
Fresh off a foot patrol, an infantryman with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, stepped out of an expeditionary field shower facility only to traipse through a courtyard blanketed by the region’s fine talcum powder-like sand where he was once again dusted with grime.
The Marine let out a sigh of frustration as he continued his trek through the compound.
“Pretty soon, you won’t have to do that anymore!” yelled a combat engineer with Combat Logistics Company 6, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
At that very moment, the engineers were building an elevated walkway through the compound to prevent the unavoidable displeasure. As of Nov. 24, the Marines and their counterparts within the company had spent countless hours over the last several weeks building and enhancing new patrol bases like PB New Jersey across the Upper Sangin Valley.
It was all about providing top-notch support for the grunts.
“We try to go above and beyond and give them as much as we can – shelves, benches, picnic tables [and] decking,” explained Chief Warrant Officer 2 Justin Young, a native of Oregon City, Ore., and platoon commander for CLC-6’s 2nd Engineer Platoon. “We treat them as the customer and build them what they need.”
The engineers also built gym equipment and hygiene facilities.
The base is one of several CLC-6, an element of Combat Logistics Battalion 6, was tasked with building along the area’s main thoroughfare, Route 611. The company was formed with the sole mission of supporting Task Force 1/6 during Operation Eastern Storm.
The major operation was launched in early October in an effort to rid the Upper Sangin Valley of the Taliban-led insurgency. In addition to reestablishing a sense of stability among the local populace, a secured Route 611, which traces north through Helmand province, will allow freedom of movement and commercial development as far north as Kajaki.
“611 is huge, 611 is the key. It helps establish the infrastructure and it helps to show the locals that we are not only talking the talk, but we are walking the walk – we’re helping provide them with a product that’s both useable and long lasting,” said Young.
To bolster security forces along the route, the engineers broke ground on multiple positions during the first week of October. Construction was broken down into two phases – expeditionary and deliberate - and work was split between CLC-6’s two engineer platoons.
The expeditionary phase consisted of the survivability and force protection measures, such as the creation of dirt berms and concertina wire around the perimeter, as well as elevated fighting positions. The deliberate phase allowed the engineers to focus more on comfort and livability measures, like those noted by Young.
Additional force protection measures were also put into place at this time and the meaning behind such things were not lost on the engineers themselves.
“It’s a big deal and we are very happy about what we are able to give these guys,” said Lance Cpl. Derek Caylor, a native of Roseburg, Ore., and combat engineer with CLC-6. “I really enjoy helping the grunts. It’s the real deal out here and they deserve it all.”
Young echoed these sentiments, though in much broader terms, hailing the operation as an “eye-opening experience” for all of those involved.
“Working for the MLG, it’s a complete support capacity – supply and support,” he said. “It’s good for my Marines to see what the infantry is doing and what their role and responsibility is, as well as to be reminded of the sacrifices the infantrymen are making during Operation Eastern Storm.
“It’s a big eye-opener for them.”