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Engineers patch Iraqi roadways, make convoys safer

Marine Corps News

Story Identification #: 20055141511
Story by Cpl. John E. Lawson Jr.

AL ASAD, Iraq (May 14, 2005) -- The Marines of 6th Engineer Support Battalion, augmenting 8th ESB and supporting Combat Logistics Battalion 2, 2nd Force Service Support Group (Forward), have been hard at work repairing the roadways throughout Western Iraq to make conducting convoy operations safer for their fellow service members.

During one engineer crater repair mission here recently, the ECR team filled two large holes totaling 115 bags or more than 1,800 cubic feet of concrete. The two holes took the team several hours to repair in temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit. All of the work, including the manual labor, was done while the Marines wore their full protective gear, including Interceptor vest, helmet and ballistics goggles.

Once the holes are identified by the many convoys traversing the roadways in the region, the team assesses the situation and begins their planning.

Once they set out to repair the holes, many of which are often caused by mine explosions, improvised explosive devices or excessive wear on the road itself, they are like any other convoy in the region: a potential target for insurgent activity. A military police security detachment and machineguns mounted on many of their trucks helps to lessen the threat, as does proper uses of armor.

When the convoy reaches the holes they are scheduled to repair, the military police detachment establishes a safe perimeter and diverts all non-military traffic around the site, said Cpl. Brett M. Taylor, construction team leader.

The engineer team then dismounts and the sapper teams begin sweeping the area and the hole for mines, the Hillsboro, Ore., native said.

Once the crater is deemed clear of potential threats, the team uses shovels to clear the loose debris from inside and uses spray paint to mark where the surface needs to be cut with a jackhammer.

Cleaning the edges with a jackhammer helps ensure the concrete will stick to the existing road, as does cutting everything at a 90-degree angle to ensure maximum surface area.

“The patch is supposed to be compatible with the existing road. It has to be able to withstand traffic from tanks,” Taylor said.

Once the cutting and cleaning of the hole is complete, the team lays supports, often utilizing sections of chain-link fence or HESCO wire, and begins to mix the concrete.

They use a mixture of concrete, a quick-setting concrete, locally-acquired aggregate, and water they transport via a tanker truck. Everything is hand-mixed by the Marines on site.

Taking breaks to hydrate and ventilate by loosening their body armor, the Marines watch each other to prevent heat injuries when working in the harsh Iraqi sun.

“We brought four coolers of iced-down Gatorade and water, and each vehicle has an additional two cases of bottled water,” Taylor said.

Once the hole is filled and the concrete is smoothed over, the Marines use a custom-made stamp to inscribe the name of an Oregon town into the patch. This has become a trademark for the unit’s handiwork.

Repairing the roads is one of the many ways Americans work to help better Iraq, but it is also a measure of safety for the troops who traverse the region during their operations. Filling the craters with concrete smoothes the road and removes obstacles which slow convoys, keeping them in harm’s way longer than necessary. It also eliminates potential hiding places for insurgents to plant a mine or IED.

“If we can deny the insurgents an opportunity to do harm, we could be keeping someone alive,” said Sgt. Paul Cook, assistant convoy commander.

With numerous ECR missions under their belt, the Marines of 6th and 8th ESBs continue to do their part to make Iraq a safer place.

“They don’t do it to please anyone; they do it for the mission, mission accomplishment,” said the Grant’s Pass, Ore., native. “They’re an incredibly hard-working bunch of Marines and they take pride in everything they do.”


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