When the 36th Engineer Brigade built and handed over an Ebola treatment unit last month to the International Organization for Migration near Buchanan, Liberia, it knew its mission wasn’t exactly complete. Now, members of the 615th Engineer Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade are making sure the road to the ETU is functional.
“A couple of weeks ago, it was bad,” said Sgt. 1st Class Denny Miranda, platoon sergeant for the 615th Engineer Company. “I’d say it was impassable.”
Miranda, a native of Lampasas, Texas, said the mile-and-a-half road from Buchanan to the ETU site was filled with dips and bumps – and that’s in the dry season. He said the road would be completely washed out with the normal heavy rains in the region.
The project will take about eight days, said Miranda, and once it’s complete, locals will be able to access the ETU quicker in case they need medical attention.
Spc. Daniel Martin, from Lakefield, Minnesota, said the project is done in four steps. First, Soldiers grade the road to allow rainwater to properly flow into ditches. Next, they prepare the road by removing large craters by filling them in with large gravel rocks. Smaller gravel rocks are then used to fill in the holes. Finally, the road is smoothed out and compacted.
“We are doing this to make it easier for them to access the ETU,” said Martin. “I’d say right now, it’s difficult for them to do that because, when it rains, it’s a bit of a sinkhole.”
Miranda said this is a mission his team is specifically trained for.
“It’s a straight-up engineer mission. This is what we do,” he said. “This falls right into our wheelhouse. Making rapid field road repairs and then moving on to the next one is what we do.”
It’s a welcome change in mission, said Miranda, whose troops are accustomed to fighting wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
“We are not here to tear things up, which is new for a lot of the guys that have been to Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom. We’re actually helping things.”
It’s a feeling Martin shares.
“I feel amazing,” he said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come out here and do an actual mission that helps people and shows them the support of the U.S.”
A small group of Buchanan residents watched closely as the Soldiers began to work on the road.
“Oh this will be great,” said onlooker Joshua Bendalor. “How can it not? Now they can get to have treatment right away.”
Operation United Assistance is a Department of Defense operation in Liberia to provide logistics, training and engineering support to U.S. Agency for International Development-led efforts to contain the Ebola virus outbreak in western Africa.
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