Photo and story by Cpl. Kaitlyn Klein
Under the cover of darkness and in the Arizona heat, U.S. Marines with 8th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB), based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., constructed an all-weather road to support border patrol and improve their tactical mobility.
Roughly 34 Marines and two Navy Corpsmen supported Joint Task Force North in building a road that would decrease the response time required of border patrol to move along the border in the southwest corner of Arizona.
“On a nightly basis, we patrol the line looking for any kind of vehicle or human incursion,” said Joshua Childress, a border patrol agent from U.S. Border Patrol Station Yuma. “This soft sand, especially in the summer months, gets very slick. We lower the tire pressure [of the trucks] to help out with that, but in five years I’ve gotten stuck several times.”
The Marines’ process of packing down the sand, and laying down [geo]textile fabric before packing in more sand and leveling the material, created a mile of much firmer road in a very short period of time.
“We were tasked to be out here for roughly 53 days and we knocked it out of the park in about two weeks,” said 1st Lt. Michelle Chadwick, the executive officer of Engineer Company, 8th ESB. “This is the first time a unit has been with this sector, doing the job that we are doing. A lot of this has been trial and error, and we are in charge of figuring this process out for everyone that comes in behind us.”
A majority of the Marines comprised of heavy equipment operators were in charge of moving all of the dirt and aggregate. Combat engineers worked with geocell confinement and laid down textile fabrics between the compacted layers of sand. Geocells, also known as cellular confinement systems, are widely used in construction for erosion control, soil stabilization on flat ground and steep slopes, channel protection, and structural reinforcement for load support, and earth retention.
The pilot program also consisted of supporting engineers, such as heavy equipment mechanics who were able to maintain the equipment, and bulk fuel operators to provide the means to maneuver the distances required to enable mission support.
“All of the operators we have out here have definitely shown improvement,” said Lance Cpl. John Diamond, a heavy equipment operator with the battalion. “It’s good to know that we as a small group of Marines from Camp Lejeune can come out here and make such a big impact. We are Marines, and that’s what we do. We set the bar high, and set an example for others to try to follow.”
Nearing completion of their project, Chadwick praises the abilities of her Marines and their dedication in completing the mission.
“8th ESB’s motto is ‘Engineers Up,’” said Chadwick. “We will do whatever it takes to make the mission succeed. We’ve overcome trial and error, equipment breaking down, and material that isn’t necessarily primed for what we are doing. We’ve worked with it, we’ve made it happen, and we’ve executed in a timeline far beyond what anyone thought that we would.”
Source: Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System (DVIDS)