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Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 74 are improving some key convoy routes in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.
NMCB 74's mission is to build short roads where vehicles often get stuck in deep wadis - dried up river beds. Five of these areas have been selected for renovation by NMCB 74's road crew detail. If left alone, these routes could become impassable for military convoys in the winter months during the rainy season.
"These roads are going to be a lot better than originally planned," said Lt. j.g. Christopher Waldrop, road crew detail officer in charge. "This is textbook Seabee work. We are self-sufficient, heading outside the wire providing our own security and building what we are supposed to build. The Convoy Security Element (CSE) is finally using their training and the equipment operators (EOs) are doing what they are trained to do."
When the road crew and the CSE arrive at one of the designated wadis, the first step is to establish a secure perimeter, survey the area, and mark the dimensions of the road. This helps determines where to build and how much gravel will be needed. The EOs then use bulldozers and graders to remove the thick, silt-like sand, which measures from one foot to four feet deep, on average.
"We clear out all the loose sand until we hit the hard surface underneath, and then begin layering gravel, dirt and water to form a cohesive bond. We roll over that to compact it, and then repeat once more until we have a hard surface." said Waldrop.
The gravel is provided by locals who are contracted to deliver it to the project site.
Rotating shifts through convoys to and from a nearby forward operating base, bringing their fuel and supplies with them on each rotation, the construction goes on 24 hours a day. The crew transports earthmoving equipment to each project site and do not leave it unattended while the road is under construction, so there are no days off for these Seabees until they finish at a location.
The CSE spent an extensive amount of time during homeport in Gulfport, Miss., simulating running convoys using gun trucks armed with multiple types of crew-served weapons, such as the M-240B and the .50 caliber machine gun.
"We spent a lot of time training in homeport and we can all do each others job, whether it's the gunner, radioman, driver or even vehicle commander," said Construction Electrician 2nd Class Alicia Morgan, a CSE member.
This is the first time a Seabee battalion's CSE team has been used extensively in Afghanistan.
"It's good to get outside the wire and do our job like we signed up to do," said Construction Mechanic 2nd Class Mike Holzinger. "I only wish we could have gone with the other convoys when we pushed our gear out to the forward operating bases and command outposts."
Holzinger suggested that this mission was a perfect example of the first two lines of "Song of the Seabees."
"We're the Seabees of the Navy we can build and we can fight," he recited. "We'll pave our way to victory and guard it day and night!"