HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- On March 16, Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction 74, Detail Payne, finished construction of a 300 foot long by 80 foot wide causeway along the Helmand River in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. A causeway such as this one has not been constructed by an NMCB since the 1950's.
The causeway was constructed mainly to assist U.S. Marine's assigned to 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance conducting operations in southern Afghanistan, but ultimately will allow all Coalition forces operating in the area transit across the river in order to fulfill their mission in the southern region. Seasonal rains and flood waters from a nearby dam, which elevates the water, made the project essential to the Marines' mission.
"Due to seasonal rains, South Station was cut off from 4th LAR for approximately two weeks, because the Helmand River was too deep for fording operations and too shallow to conduct rafting operations. The causeway allows vehicles to drive to the middle of the river where the water is deep enough for the Improved Ribbon Bridge raft to pick them up and transport them across the river," said U.S. Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Collin Bell, an engineer for 2d Combat Engineer Battalion.
Operational necessity and increasingly adverse environmental conditions dictated the timeline for the projects completion. According to Petty Officer 1st Class Aaron Nagel, an equipment operator and project supervisor, the causeway was completed in just four days. Even before the causeway was completely finished Marines and Afghani national army soldiers were lined up to utilize the new asset.
"[U.S. Marines and ANA Soldiers] were using the causeway before we even finished building it. That's how important this mission was," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Salvini, an equipment operator and a project crew member.
The contingency project, conducted outside friendly lines, was not undertaken without risk. Operators had to be mindful of the river's height and current while delivering rock and sand, while Soldiers assigned to the 502nd Bridging Unit had to remain vigilant while providing waterborne security for the project against possible enemy fire.
"The challenging part was keeping the Civil Engineer Support Equipment running. Our biggest safety concern was the dump truck flipping over in the river current and someone drowning. We were driving in water that was two to four feet deep while building the base up and had to make sure we maintained a level ground where we were dumping the material," said Nagel.
Successful completion of projects such as this in direct support of the warfighter, prove that modern NMCB's equipped with the latest modular technologies still possess the traditional construction skills and abilities of the legendary "Fighting Seabees" of history. NMCB 74, as well as any NMCB in the Naval Construction Force, will build, will fight, any place, any time.