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A combat engineer with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest) braces against a flurry of sand while filling HESCO containers at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, Aug. 12, 2013. A platoon of combat engineers and heavy equipment operators worked through the night and endured the constant sting of blowing sand to erect a new guard tower at the base.

Photo by Cpl. Paul Peterson

HESCO Master: Combat engineer revels in grind

1 Sep 2013 | Cpl. Paul Peterson

It’s a day-by-day brawl over mounds of sand, steel mesh, and heavy equipment, but he loves it.

Sgt. Adam Rehder, a Windyville, Mo., native and combat engineer with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command (Southwest), just walked off a 12-hour shift working on the perimeter at Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan, when he confessed he’d rather have a shower than eat food.

“I like to be clean,” laughed Rehder. “It’s a muddy mess.”

He’s spent nearly an entire month tackling infrastructure improvement projects at the base. His extensive work with HESCO barriers, wire-mesh containers reinforced with heavy-duty fabric, earned him the endearing title “HESCO Master” among his Marines.

“I’ve actually grown to like it quite a bit,” said Rehder, who supervises the installation and layout of the large, dirt-filled barriers. “It’s windy out here most of the time. You sweat, and you have that [heavy equipment] dumping that load, and its blowing right in your face … There isn’t anything you can do about it. It’s motivating, definitely.”

Rehder and his Marines stand on top of the HESCO barriers as earthmoving equipment fills the containers with load after load of gravel and powder-fine sand. By the end of their working period, the Marines are completely covered in said.

“They look like sugar cookies,” joked one observer.

The statement was accurate but deceiving. The sand works its way into the Marines’ uniforms and clings to the sweat on their skin. By the time they finish showering, a pool of orange mud clogs the drain. Sometimes they don’t even bother undressing before entering the shower.

“[It] takes a toll on your body,” confessed Rehder
The Marines alternate positions during the harshest parts of the construction labor and work at night whenever possible.

“It’s safer, to be honest,” said Rehder. “It’s easier on the Marines and not as hot out … I think we’re more proficient at night. During the day, [the heat] is going to draw that energy out of you.”

The August weather in Afghanistan is often hot even at night. It’s not uncommon for sand storms to spring up and engulf the Marines as they work. Somehow, they not only endure the harsh conditions but have enough energy to sing comical songs about their predicament as they trudge up and down sand berms or coil old concertina wire.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” said Rehder. “I’ve been a lot of places, and I just feel like right here is where I’m supposed to be. The motivation level is high, the experience level is high, and it’s just awesome … As far as where it comes from, I think it’s just knowing our job so well.”

For Rehder, part of the enjoyment is putting his crew’s extensive training to practical use. After more than a month of honing their teamwork in Twentynine Palms, California, the rhythm and communication within the unit began to solidify. It continued to grow from constant application in Afghanistan.

“We practice our [military specialty] quite a bit, which is awesome because I like [it],” said Rehder. “We’re pretty good at what we do.”

The improvements at Camp Dwyer are just the beginning for Rehder and his team. They will likely complete construction projects at numerous other bases throughout Helmand province over the next several months.

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