By Army 1st Lt. Tomas Rofkahr
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 27, 2008 - Members of the Australian Reconstruction Task Force and Task Force Castle's 420th Engineer Brigade completed the emplacement of two Mabey Johnson bridges near Andar and Moqur in eastern Afghanistan. Insurgent attacks during the summer left the bridges impassible, forcing Afghans and coalition forces to use single-lane bypasses.
Work progressed quickly once the Australian and American combat engineers arrived. The first bridge in Andar was erected in just over two days, and forces then moved on to Moqur, where they emplaced the second bridge.
Both bridges are on Highway 1, which connects Kandahar in southern Afghanistan to the Afghan capital of Kabul. Highway 1 is a paved route originally built in the 1960s. The 300-mile stretch that includes the bridges was refurbished in 2002 and 2003 as part of President Bush's Afghanistan Road Initiative. The U.S. Agency for International Development credits the work with reducing the transit time between Kandahar and Kabul by half.
In recent months, Highway 1 has become a focal point for insurgent activity, as Taliban fighters and common bandits target supply convoys and merchant traffic. The bridge attacks were the latest in the Taliban's efforts to impede Afghanistan's reconstruction and stability, officials said.
The bridge attacks are a serious concern, but not a serious engineering problem to solve.
"Each section of the bridge is called a bay and is about 10 feet long," said Army Capt. James Reid, Task Force Castle's assistant operations officer. "We were able to do a 10-bay bridge in two days."
Reid, an Arkansas native, has seen a great deal in his 20 years of military service, with multiple tours in Iraq and now building bridges in Afghanistan.
"I'm excited to be involved in this," he said. "It's helping everybody -- it's helping Afghanistan, it's helping the coalition forces, and it's just a win-win for everyone."
(Army 1st Lt. Tomas Rofkahr serves in the Combined Task Force Castle Public Affairs Office.)