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Operation Winter Road opens new pathway for Afghans, coalition forces

March 12, 2013

By Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan - After more than a month of hard work, soldiers from Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division) and the 229th Engineer Company of the Wisconsin Army National Guard completed a road project, Feb. 13, in the Panjwa'i district of Afghanistan.

Each of the units involved provided a critical piece to the road building.

Company B, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, provided two platoons and borrowed a battalion mortar platoon to secure the area around the sites being constructed. Two Afghan National Army platoons also patrolled the road and helped secure the area.

The combat engineers of the 38th Engineer Company used Mine Clearing Line Charges to clear any obstructions from the projected road path and get rid of any improvised explosive devices that might have been buried along the old path.

Sgt. 1st Class Hayden Eckelberg, the platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, 229th Eng. Co., and fellow horizontal engineers of 229th Eng. Co. built the road.

They used bulldozers to clear away any debris from the combat engineers' blasts and leveled the roadway. They would then shape the road and lay a base layer of fill followed by a layer of gravel. Due to small canals that crossed through the road, the horizontal engineers had to emplace culvert systems to create stronger and more stable roadways.

The new four-mile-long road stretches through an area known as the "Horn of Panjwa'i" and gives the local populace a direct route to the district center, said Eckelberg.

Engineers also widened the road for easier access by Afghan locals, Afghan National Security Forces, and coalition forces.

"It was a one season road where maybe a donkey and a cart could've passed," explained Eckelberg, a Tomah, Wisc., native. "Now, we're turning it into a three season road and it's going to be passable here by a Stryker, an 1151 (Humvee) that the ANA rolls with, (and) anything that we've got."

The road serves not only as a means of transportation to nearby marketplaces and government structures, but it also has tactical relevance.

"It's important to both forces because what it does is it gives the ANA a fighting chance once Bayonet Company leaves this (area of operations) ... to get to the enemy faster," said Eckelberg. Eckelberg said working on the project gave him a sense of satisfaction.

"It really gives me great pride to be able to build a road for these guys and make it easier for them to bring the fight to the enemy rather than just (having) to stop because of IEDs and whatnot," he explained.

Capt. Matthew Boise, the company commander of B Company, 1st Bn., 38th Inf. Regt., said he and his soldiers, who patrol in the area, started seeing affects immediately.

Boise said his soldiers have already patrolled the area both mounted and dismounted, something they could not do before the road existed.

"(We) see a vast difference in the AO just because of the road," said Boise.

The Afghan police created one checkpoint during road construction and began patrolling road, Boise said.

One week after completing the road, the Afghan police set up another checkpoint, he said.

In the end, it took everyone's support to complete the project that will benefit all parties involved.

"It really brought all the forces together to build an amazing road and secure it along the way," Eckelberg said.

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