FORWARD OPERATING BASE ZEEBRUGGE, Afghanistan --
As one of the more kinetic areas in the 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward)’s area of operation, the valleys surrounding Kajaki Dam are often saturated with the cracks of rifles as gunships trace the sky. For nearly a decade, Marines and their allies posted throughout the area have been able to keep enemy forces at bay, but those who operate out of Forward Operating Base Zeebrugge have also had to contend with another insurgency that has taken hold.
Though less of a threat than what the troops may face in the scope of their daily duties, Oriental hornets and a breed of subterranean termite have still managed to become quite an annoyance to personnel aboard the hill-top base.
Answering a call for help, two sailors with the Preventative Medicine Unit aboard Camp Leatherneck touched down in Kajaki, Sept. 24 to assess the situation and eliminate the threat festering within.
“These are the only buildings these guys have and it’s all about protecting their assets out here,” said Lt. j.g. Noel Cote, an entomologist with Marine Air Ground Task Force Support Battalion 11.2, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward).
The structures Cote spoke of form a small village built in the 1950s to support U.S. contractors who constructed the nearby dam. Though they consist primarily of a combination of concrete slab and field stone, the ceilings are made of wood beams – an enticing meal for the termites, much to the chagrin of the troops living within who often wake up to the pests falling into their beds.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Daniel Walker, a preventative medicine technician with II Marine Headquarters Group, Regional Command Southwest, spent several hours spraying infested areas with a broad spectrum insecticide, while Cote poured more than 25 gallons of a water and termicide mixture around the perimeter of each building.
Once it has seeped into the ground, the latter will serve as a barrier against future infestations, noted Cote, a native of Duncan, Okla.
“Having water nearby in addition to the amount of wooded vegetation here to support a termite population can cause problems specific to this area,” said Walker, a native Kyle, Texas.
“We are more than happy to take care of this problem for them though,” he said.
The spray used will assist with the elimination of other insects such as ants and spiders. It is also effective against the hornets, which had created colonies for themselves in the aging concrete throughout the compound. The largest was found under a knee-high cement wall adjacent to a small outdoor gym.
Once the insecticide was applied to this particular area, Cote sealed the cracked concrete with spray foam insulation to prevent existing hornets from nesting again.
Though only time will tell, both sailors felt this initial treatment may be all it takes to eliminate the issues.
“Unlike in the States where if people see one bug they saturate the area in an insecticide, the ones here have gone largely unchecked and are therefore more susceptible to the effects of just one treatment,” explained Cote. “They just aren’t used to it.”
No matter what the outcome, the team will keep a close eye on the well-being of the Marines and sailors of FOB Zeebrugge.
Anything we can do to keep them healthy, happy and in the fight is our pleasure, said Cote.
“We are constantly touring the different bases to complete base camp assessments and taking care of these guys is our job,” added Walker. “This is what we are here for, to support them.”