CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan --
Marines and sailors in Afghanistan are nearing completion on a major land excavation project for new living areas for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward) Marines who work on the flightline at Camp Bastion.
Currently, the Marines live on Camp Leatherneck, but work in the hangars along Camp Bastion’s nearly 12,000-foot runway. The Marines’ daily movement from one camp to the other can take up to 45 minutes.
“We are trying to give these Marines a closer place to live to their work areas,” explained Staff Sgt. Jefferson Brink, the project manager for Marine Wing Support Squadron 272.
MWSS-373, stationed out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., began the project early 2011 prior to changing over in February with MWSS-272, deployed out of Marine Corps Air Station New River, N.C. The Marines are working with the help of sailors from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7, deployed out of Naval Construction Battalion Center Gulfport, Miss.
Video: Click here to watch the Marines and sailors on the job.
“When we first got out here the land was bumpy and rocky, which meant we had a lot of work to do,” said Brink. “It can be rough sometimes out here working on this project with the 100-plus degree weather and the dust storms, but we’re making great progress.”
The area of land chosen for construction of the new living areas has large underground rock formations, which presented a challenge in the progress of the project, said Brink.
“It’s been hard for us to estimate how long it will take to dig through hardened rock and that was a curve ball in our operation,” said Brink. “It’s taking a little longer than planned to get this project done because of the rock.”
The area of land for the project is about 1,300 by 800 feet, comparable to three football fields. Upon its completion, the Marines and sailors will have moved more than a half-million cubic yards of earth, Brink said.
“I’ve been in the Marine Corps for 10 years and this is the biggest project I’ve ever done,” said Brink, a native of Eureka, Calif. “For my Marines to stumble upon a project like this, it’s a great opportunity.”
“Back home we don’t really do this – definitely no heavy land work like this,” said Lance Cpl. Matthew P. Riley, a heavy equipment operator with MWSS-272, and a native of La Plata, Md. “This is what I signed up to do, and I’m learning a lot.”
The area of land the Marines and sailors are leveling will not only hold new living areas, but also a dining facility, a recreation center and showers.
“As far as morale goes, it’s going to be a blessing to the flightline Marines,” said Brink. “As a Marine, if you’ve got a chow hall, a recreation center, living and working quarters all in the same area, you’re in a good spot and you feel very fortunate.”
Once the ground-leveling project is completed, hired contractors are slated to begin building the new living areas for Marines working on the runway, said Brink.
“There will be a significant increase in mission proficiency when the living areas are built,” said Sgt. Maj. William Oldenburg, the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 267 sergeant major. “With the Marines living and eating in close proximity to the hangars it will cut down on a lot of transit time.”
HMLA-267, deployed out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., is one of several Marine Corps squadrons that will have a new home at Camp Bastion once the construction project is complete.
“This is going to be a really big benefit for the Marines,” said Oldenburg. “They will be able to enjoy the little time they have off and not spend it traveling back and forth to work.”
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