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New road benefits Afghans, coalition forces

4th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Public Affairs

Published: 02:53PM February 28th, 2013
New road benefits Afghans, coalition forces

Sgt. Kimberly Hackbarth

Wisconsin Army National Guard Soldiers work on a culvert system in the Panjwa’i District of Afghanistan.

FORWARD OPERATING BASE MASUM GHAR, Afghanistan — After more than a month of hard work, Soldiers from Combined Task Force 4-2 (4th Brigade, 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.

Bravo Company, 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 and get rid of any improvised explosive devices that might have been buried along the old path.

Sergeant First Class Hayden Eckelberg, the platoon sergeant for 3rd Platoon, 229th Eng. Co., and fellow unit horizontal engineers built the road. They used bulldozers to clear away any debris from the combat engineers’ blasts and leveled the roadway, then shaped the road and laid fill and 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 segments stretched the road through an area known as the “Horn of Panjwa’i,” giving the local populace a direct route to the district center, Eckelberg said. 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,” Eckelberg said. “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,” 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 said.

Captain Matthew Boise, commander of B Company, 1-38 Inf., said he and his Soldiers who patrol in the area started seeing effects immediately. Bravo Company has 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,” Boise said.

The Afghan police created one checkpoint during road construction and began patrolling the road, Boise said. One week after completing the road, the Afghan police set up another checkpoint. 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.