MIRABAD, Afghanistan – The sound of bullets sliced through the air, enemy grenades and mortars pelted the ground near the Marines.
Through it all, the Marines of Alpha Company, 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), continued to press on and complete the mission.
“This mission was engineer operations in direct support of Special Operations Task Force West,” said Capt. Ryan T. Heider, commanding officer of Alpha Company. “What we did was bridge a few gaps that couldn’t be crossed by conventional means. We also built a patrol base and a village support platform in order to allow SOTF-West to push further north.”
This particular area of Afghanistan has been a hotbed for the Taliban, housing countless insurgents throughout the valley and making it difficult for special operations units with SOTF-West to advance.
By establishing the patrol bases and bridges, SOTF-West’s mobility is not limited to foot movement, said Heider. They can now travel by vehicle and also have a base to consolidate and resupply.
The unique mission allowed the Marines of Alpha Company to run the gamut of combat engineering capabilities and they opened up nearly the entire playbook for an engineer support company. Alpha Company built bridges, used C4 and other explosives to clear paths, and even constructed buildings and structures out of the dirt that surrounded them.
“We have never done anything like this. We got to do almost everything that an ESB line company gets to do,” said Heider.
“I think this mission just put all of our training together,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Glory, platoon sergeant, 3rd Platoon, Alpha Company, 9th ESB. “We did every aspect of combat engineering from bridging to demolition, vertical and horizontal construction.”
All the aid Alpha Company provided was appreciated by the SOTF-West forces.
“This was said directly to me from the SOTF forces, ‘they couldn’t have done what they were doing without us,’” said Heider. “They were a little overwhelmed because they weren’t expecting the level of support they got from us.”
The Marines provided this support under fire and with the constant threat of insurgents lurking nearby, proving they could perform under the harshest of conditions.
“The Marines were able to shift gears and perform outstandingly, better than any group of combat engineers I have ever seen,” said Glory.
“The Marines worked well together; we worked 24 hours a day,” said Staff Sgt. Brian D. Corpuz, platoon sergeant, 2nd platoon. “There was a real lack of sleep, but these guys pulled through and they pushed each other.”
With help from the Marines of Alpha Company, SOTF- West will be able to travel further into Mirabad and eliminate enemy threats. This will aid in Afghanistan’s transition to a more peaceful and independent country.