HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan --
The Marines with 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group (Forward), are currently conducting a mission that is, in some of the engineer’s own words, a vital operation. They are constructing a route in an area that otherwise has nothing like it. T
he development of this main supply route is vital because it will ensure that the local nationals have a safe way to transport their goods throughout Helmand province, said Cpl. Mark E. Mattiacio, a heavy equipment operator with 9th ESB.
“There really are no other [established] roads out here that can be proclaimed as safe for the locals to drive on,” Mattiacio continued.
The ongoing project in the Shir Ghazay area of northern Helmand province is important to coalition forces as well as locals for a number of reasons.
Mattiacio, a Rochester, N.Y., native, pointed out not only will the road be beneficial in the immediate future, but it also has the potential to help people for years to come.
“I think road construction such as [this] will help Afghan independence in the future,” he explained. “The road should give the local nationals a strong sense of security. They will know that the road is safe and easy to travel. This will uplift their spirits and hopefully encourage them to keep the road in good condition when all coalition forces have left the country.”
Fellow 9th ESB heavy equipment operator Lance Cpl. Mike Q. Vu agreed that the route would be beneficial to the Afghans in the future, but he highlighted different reasons.
“I think a road like this will provide a model for them to build their own domestic transportation system,” Vu explained. “By establishing their own system, the local nationals will in turn be able to improve their own processes of communication. With the enhancements in communication and transportation of goods and trade, the Afghan populace will essentially be able to establish their own domestic government, which has been proven to be the cornerstone in establishing a self-sufficient country.”
While both Marines stated they were proud of the work they had done on the road, Vu, a native of Austin, Texas, elaborated on his sense of accomplishment.
“I can say I was part of an operation in Afghanistan that not only improved the proficiency of all military operations in the area, but also helped in humanitarian operation to aid the locals in establishing a foundation for their own self-sufficiency,” Vu said.
Whether highlighting immediate or future benefits of the route construction, both locals and the coalition forces are grateful for the opportunity to travel and conduct business on a safer route.
Vu told of one instance when a local Afghan showed his appreciation. He said there were many encounters with the locals, but in this particular case, the elderly male paused in his work on his irrigation ditch and approached the engineers, shaking their hands and thanking them for their work.
“The man was very excited, because he explained how much easier it would be on him and his sons to travel with all of their crops to sell and trade,” Vu stated.
From the coalition forces’ standpoint, the mission is important, according to Vu, because it provides a means to travel between mission objectives, both easily and proficiently, while deterring insurgent activities. Vu concluded that one of the immediate benefits of the route construction is the healthy relationship established between foreign military forces and local nationals, all working together in one area toward a common construction goal.