60th Deployment:
AUSA volunteer Steve Hesler serves bread to SPC Endetayew Lemma, left, SPC Justin Lyles, SPC Quincy Douglas and PFC Monica Mumma Sunday in Freedom Hall.

The 60th Engineer Company (Vertical), 11th Engineer Battalion, deployed Sunday from Freedom Hall. Before beginning the 15-hour flight to Afghanistan, the unit stopped at Fort Knox, Ky., to pick up the 76th Engineer Company.

During their yearlong deployment, the company will work with a platoon of horizontal engineers from Fort Knox to expand their capabilities, said 1SG Letitia Jefferson, the company's first sergeant. They will also send a platoon to the 76th Eng. Co.

"As engineers, we're going to accomplish a lot," she said. "We're not only going to be doing construction on buildings, making life better for the Soldiers; where there are no roads, we're going to be helping put in roads."

The forward operating base the engineers will go to stretches three miles long and currently houses about 400 service members, Jefferson said.
The 60th Eng. Co. will expand the base, which will accommodate closer to 2,000 by the time the unit leaves.

The engineers may put in utilities, including electrical and plumbing.
In most cases, they will start from scratch, said MSG Todd Scott, 11th Eng. Bn. operations sergeant.

"It's going to be a very natural environment that they're going to mold and shape to make it habitable," Scott said. "Their mission is (to) step into a pristine area, build it up, then move on to another area. Their living conditions are most likely going to be quite harsh, and once there are good living conditions, they're going to move on to harsh living conditions and build it up nice for somebody else again."

The company's work will prepare for the influx of 17,000 Soldiers who are slated to deploy to Afghanistan as part of the surge.

SGT Cedron Hopson said he knows his unit will accomplish their mission.
Hopson said he volunteered for the Army, so his 3-year-old daughter won't have to face the same struggles when she grows up.

"Somebody has to do it," he said. "If I don't do it, then my baby is going to have to do it. I go ahead and fight the good fight now, so she can live happily."

SPC Ramon Lopez chose to join the Army to help his country in its time of need.
"I wanted to serve. I didn't just want to sit back," said Lopez, who followed the example of his uncle and dad, who both served in the military.

Since high school, Lopez has worked in construction. He enjoys woodwork, he said, so he chose to become a carpentry and masonry specialist in the Army.
Although he leaves behind his fiancee for his first deployment to Afghanistan, he is prepared for his mission, he said.

"It's really hard, but she knows what I do, and she loves me, and she's going to be there when I come back," he said.

CSM Terry Purdin, 11th Eng. Bn. command sergeant major, encouraged the Soldiers while they waited in Freedom Hall.

"There's not one of you sitting out here that I wouldn't give my life for to help. I love Soldiers as much as I love my family," said Purdin to the engineers as they spent their last hours in Georgia enjoying a dinner of pizza and sandwiches, courtesy of the Red Cross.
Purdin was proud of them, he said.

"These guys and gals are going out for a year and serving their country," he said. "They are defending our constitutional rights both here and abroad. We have no idea the unforeseen dangers these Soldiers are going to encounter in Afghanistan in an austere environment. If that doesn't make you a hero then I don't know what does."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16