By Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 2, 2008 - Coalition engineer and cavalry soldiers worked together in April and May to build living quarters and a security checkpoint for Afghan border police at the Gowardesh Bridge during Operation Mountain Highway II in the eastern portion of Afghanistan's Nuristan province. Army Spc. Jason Marlowe, a Wisconsin native, and Army Spc. Ben Kavanagh, from Iowa, built the living quarters, bunkers and fighting positions next to the Gowardesh Bridge and Landay River.
"We're building bunkers and their home so they can stay here to protect the bridge and the immediate area," explained Kavanagh, who said their previous living quarters were destroyed by insurgents late last summer.
Afghan National Army soldiers provided overwatch security for two weeks while the engineers worked around the clock to complete the checkpoint and living quarters.
"Were trying to get this built as soon as possible so the ABP can move in here," explained Marlowe. "Right now, everyone is sleeping outside on the ground."
The Afghan border police checkpoint and living quarters were the main efforts of Operation Mountain Highway II. While Marlowe and Kavanagh built the border police station, hundreds of soldiers provided overwatch security in seven observation posts around the valley.
"It takes an enormous amount of overwatch to safely come up here, due to the terrain," explained Capt. John Williams, Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment commander.
Construction on the checkpoint and living quarters was completed in mid-May. The new checkpoint will improve security and open up the way for government- and development-related projects in the region.
"Now that we have security in this area, we can restart construction on the road," Williams said.
A $40 million road project was halted in the fall when insurgents killed four workers.
"Two of the observation posts [allow sight for] miles down the road," Williams said. "Once the road is built, it will open up the area to new projects, which weren't feasible before."
(Army Staff Sgt. Brandon Aird serves in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office.)