CAMP WY-WUH, ANNETTE IS-LAND, Alaska -- CAMP WY-WUH, ANNETTE IS-LAND, Alaska – From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of … southeast Alaska?
That’s how the song goes for 73 Marines deployed here from the 3rd Force Service Support Group in support of Operation Alaskan Road.
About two-thirds of the detachment is assigned to the 9th Engineer Support Battalion, Camp Hansen, Okinawa, Japan, and the remaining third assigned to Combat Service Support Group 3, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.
The arrival of the Marines nearly doubled the camp’s population. The 3rd FSSG Marines are the first of the large-scale engineer groups to work this year’s Alaskan road.
Old trucks needed a lot of TLC, said Staff Sgt. Elis Cruzrivera, maintenance chief, 9th ESB. “The guys are new to this equipment,” he said. “It’s even before my time.”
But if the equipment comes in broken, it goes out fixed.
The troops will take some solid experience home with them, and some good troubleshooting skills as well.
Operation Alaskan Road offers each branch of the service an opportunity to work with the others – something else the Marines rarely get to do at home.
“The soldiers we’re working with are showing us a lot and helping us get over obstacles,” said Sgt. Brendan Sanders, CSSG-3.
On the road site, the Marines have logged thousands of man-hours during its three-week tour, making visible progress toward the final product, a 14.5-mile road ready for surfacing. Excavators, dump trucks, graders, bulldozers, and compactors roared, grind, pushed, and dug the difficult terrain into submission.
Marines stationed in Hawaii and Japan can’t work with this kind of equipment at home, said Gunnery Sgt. James Darity, CSSG-3. But here, the Marines are getting plenty of experience digging in the muskeg and clearing rock.
Original specifications for the road called for gentle sloping with no steep grades, a huge challenge among the rocky mountains of the island. One of the Marines’ tasks involved installing a culvert, five feet in diameter, to level one deep depression in the road. “We’ve never put in a culvert of this magnitude,” said Darity.
Construction staff non-commissioned officer in charge Staff Sgt. Richard Arvey, CSSG-3, oversaw the culvert installation. “Excavators, trucks, and Marines,” he said. “All these moving parts. It sharpens my task organization skills.”
The Marines are working to Department of Transportation code in addition to the military standard.
“Our young guys are getting the same experience as the older guys,” said Sgt. Chris Eastman, construction foreman, CSSG-3. Such stuff brings up a unit’s proficiency very quickly.
Staff Sgt. Michael Avila, 9th ESB, oversaw the extension of the road a few yards at a time, a bulldozer and excavator leading the way. “The road’s going where it needs to go,” he said. Dump truck after dump truck droped its payload – up to 25 cubic yards of rock and dirt – to provide an appropriate amount of fill where it needs to be. The trucks traveled five miles to the quarry and back, bringing in the fill, over 30 loads a day, each taking over an hour to accomplish, but progress is obvious.
“It’s tedious, sitting in a truck all day long,” said Sgt. Larry Thomas, quarry foreman. But there is a purpose.
“To put as big a dent in the rock pile as we can,” said Thomas.
The day-to-day inconveniences – like long hours, hot sun, pesky gnats and mosquitoes, dust and more dust – don’t seem to bother the Marines.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Thomas says. “We don’t get to build too many things like this.”