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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Vanguard engineers pave way for victory ‘from the sky’

8 May 2007
Story by Army Spc. Jon H. Arguello

FORWARD OPERATING BASE FENTY, Afghanistan – Just weeks before Soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division hand over control of their area of operations to the 173rd Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), engineers from 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion are working hard to ensure the 173rd’s “Sky Soldiers” have decent accommodations, and more importantly, the facilities needed to continue clearing the way for a secure Afghanistan.

The hardened “Sappers” of 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 3rd BSTB are working diligently, working to “set up their fellow Soldiers for success,” said Army Staff Sgt. Michael Garrett, a native of Milltown, Ill. and mayor of the Coalition forward operating base at Khogyani.

“Even though we’ve been here for over a year, there’s still a lot of work to be done here, in and outside of the FOB,” he said. “Getting rid of the Taliban is the most important thing that needs to be done, there’s no question about that. What we are doing is making it easier for them to do that here by making them a stable base for them to go out and do their job. They don’t need to be worrying about whether or not the water is going to work.”

The facilitation of the fight is a concept the commander of Alpha Company stands behind.

“This camp was originally set up to support about twenty people and we obviously have a lot more than that here right now,” said Army Capt. Perry Stiemke, from Philadelphia. “So we are expanding to house more people and that includes changes in infrastructure, mainly electrical and plumbing.”

Some of the projects around the base include upgraded security points, the addition of six washers and dryers, a morale and welfare facility with computers and phones, a volleyball court, and a 20,000-gallon fuel point.

The small base’s expansion has also benefited the local population. Construction and base development brought an influx of jobs and business to the area.

“It’s definitely improving the local economy,” said Stiemke. “The more legitimate money we fuse into the economy the easier it is to move away from illegal narcotics and the better for people when eradication efforts start.”

Although the reason for the engineers’ work is clear, the motivation behind their dedication to the mission only weeks from redeployment is impressive.

“The purpose of all these improvements and expansions is to set up the (173rd Airborne Brigade) up for success but also to allow them to immediately start combat operations as opposed to worrying about construction,” Stiemke said. “They don’t have to worry about getting the fire base up – we’re doing that for them.”

“I’ve been fighting over a year,” said Garrett. “I get gratification knowing that the guys from the 173rd are going to be able to concentrate on their fighting. Every little thing helps the fight so we all share the attitude that we need to get this base up and running, because the Taliban deserve everything the 173rd can give them.”

Garrett gave most of the credit for the hard work to the Soldiers who work for him.

“They really have a good attitude,” he said. “They are working until the very last day to accomplish the mission. They’ve done an awesome job.”

Photo: Army Sgt. David Underwood, a combat engineer with Alpha Company, 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, removes a perimeter of concertina wire to create a clearing for air re-supply April 29. (Photo by Spc. Jon H. Arguello).

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