By MC1 Russell Stewart, NMCB 4
Marines and Afghan forces prepare opening ceremonies for the Musa Qal eh water crossing built by NMCB 4 Seabees in Afghanistan. The crossing connects locals with the Gereshk Road and Helmand province s capital, Lashkar Gah, to allows residents to reach the government center and area markets during the winter months. Photo by MC1 Russell Stewart
In a crowd of dignitaries and elders, the Musa Qal eh crossing built by the Seabees of Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 was blessed and declared open to the public in a ceremony held atop the Afghanistan roadway, Dec. 9, 2011.
[This project] represents what Seabees have done for 69 years. We don't just build facilities and roads; we build partnerships, lasting legacies, solutions and linkages to improve people's lives, said Cmdr. La Tanya Simms, NMCB 4 s commanding officer. This low water crossing links Musa Qal'eh residents with the Gereshk Road and Helmand province's capital, Lashkar Gah, to facilitate economic growth and governance. That's a big deal. Our Seabees and the entire Musa Qal'eh team should be justifiably proud!
Standing on the crossing, seeing the village elders and district leaders gathered, looking at what his Seabees had accomplished in such a short span of time, Command Master Chief Michael Jenkins, NMCB 4, said, I was very proud to see the troops get the recognition from Maj. Gen. Toolan. The smiles on the faces of the village elders and the district leaders said it all!
The wadi crossing project was truly a joint effort by Navy, Marine Corps and Army commands, not just NMCB 4. Soldiers from the 129th and 375th Combat Sustainment Support Battalions convoyed precast components from Camp Leatherneck to Musa Qal'eh; Marines from the 7th Engineer Support Battalion (ESB) improved low spots on the road leading to Musa Qal'eh, welders from 7th ESB and Combat Logistics Battalion 6 were also an integral part of the construction crew, and the 2/4 Marines based at Musa Qal'eh provided security and helped procure the rip-rap placed at the base of the crossing to prevent erosion. Personnel from 2nd Marine Division (Forward) G9 included Cmdr. Edward Leitz, G9 project manager, and Zack Mazraani, the civilian structural engineer who designed the crossing and worked closely with NMCB 4 to refine the design for ease of construction.
It is unique for Seabees to undertake such a project in Afghanistan because over the last decade, Seabee projects have been more expeditionary in nature and primarily for coalition forces, said Cmdr. Simms. This structure was designed and built to be more permanent, and it's primarily for Afghan citizens.
There s a giant difference doing work for the Afghan people instead of always for the U.S. military; there s a lot of satisfaction. It s a really good feeling hearing manana, or thank you, from the people as they drove or walked by us while we were working, said Steelworker Constructionman Apprentice James McMahan.
The best part of this project was watching as our crew developed from zero experience to really proficient welders so rapidly! said Steelworker 1st Class Douglas White. There s a great sense of accomplishment knowing that our job here has a direct contribution to the counterinsurgency effort.
Watching the ribbon-cutting at the opening ceremony reminded Simms of situations during a past deployment in Indonesia when she was a lieutenant.
There was a similar atmosphere where village leaders gathered to bless the projects, show their appreciation and speak about cooperation between nations, Simms said. Seabees in Indonesia and Musa Qal'eh understood the impact they were making both then and in the future. They didn't have to understand Indonesian or Pashto; they could see the appreciation in people's smiles.
Seabees are excellent contributors to what we call Phase Zero operations, the business of preventing war, she added.