Ground was broken for the start of Operation Golden Gate in the Sangin District of Helmand province, Afghanistan, Nov. 4.
Marines, sailors and soldiers are working together in an effort to build a bridge more than 24 feet wide that will span more than 150 feet across the Helmand River, allowing for easy passage for the local people.
“This is a joint project to build a permanent bridging solution to connect the east and west banks of the river, “said 2nd Lt. Benjamin Nelson, mission commander for Engineer Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 2, Combat Logistics Regiment 15.
The current bridge site is near the northern causeway, which once housed a bridge that connected the people of Sangin and Musa Qal’ah.
“The northern causeway was the site of an existing medium girder bridge,” said Lt. j.g. James A. Bruno, platoon commander with Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133. “Over time, the river expanded west, making it no longer feasible to have the bridge there.”
Still in the early stages of construction, the bridge construction requires each different unit involved to play specific roles.
“Right now, Engineer Company is working on the roadwork improvements,” said Nelson. “An Army unit will place the bridge, and the Navy is doing the majority of the work on the western side.”
Units involved include 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, providing security; the 20th and 178th Army Engineer Bn.; the 12th Georgian Bn, and more units scheduled to support as the construction progresses.
With just a week of construction completed, the bridge is showing visible signs of progress. HESCO barriers are lining the banks, leveled out ground is expanding with each pass of the bulldozers, and the area leading up to the bridge is resembling a road more each day.
“I would say today we are at about 20 percent,” said Bruno. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
The work each of the units is putting in will culminate into a final, finished product that will not only aid and bolster the community, but also the military forces in the region.
“I understand that the market is 55 kilometers out of the way if you’re taking normal routes, which is a significant detour,” said Bruno. “This is going to be easier for the locals’ Thursday market trips.”
“Although the bridge will be of strategic importance to the coalition forces while we remain here and for Afghan National Security Forces going forward, it will be a permanent bridge structure that Afghans, both military and civilian, can use,” said Nelson. “I think both socially and economically it will be extremely important for them.”
Each day, the service members involved with Operation Golden Gate push further ahead and move steps closer to a final, district connecting bridge that will help shape the region.