Leaders of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, stand on the Bag-E-Pol bridge after the ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 14.

ZHARAY DISTRICT, KANDAHAR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- While Soldiers of 3rd Brigade Combat Team have made significant gains in the governance and security of Zharay and Maiwand districts of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, they also worked to improve the main road that connects Helmand Province to Kandahar City -- Highway 1.

The highway used to be seen as a "war relic" from the Soviet occupation, but now motorists can travel on a well-maintained thoroughfare.

Through the "Operation Visible Progress" initiative, Soldiers have worked to clean and repair the highway, while making it more aesthetically pleasing.

"You drive down Highway 1, (and) you can see a big difference. You see color, you see legible signs," said Staff Sgt. William Filion, 1st Platoon section sergeant, A Company, 710th Brigade Support Battalion.

"The Afghan people are starting to show their faces a lot more," Filion added. "It is definitely noticeable. I know that we are a part of history, and that we are a part of a greater good. I feel that 3rd Bri-gade is the go-to brigade for things that need to be done here in Af-ghanistan."
The culmination of all the efforts along the road came with "Highway 1 Day" on Feb. 14.

Abdol Qadim Paktiyal, deputy provincial governor of Kandahar Province, and representatives of the Afghan government in the Maiwand and Zharay districts, first met at Forward Operating Base Pasab for a briefing about the progress that has been made along Highway 1.

"Highway 1 Day was really a demonstration to senior Afghan (Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) officials of the progress that has come to Zharay District, and that is through both (International Security Assistance Forces) and our Afghan partners," said Maj. Brian Ducote, operations officer for 3rd BCT.

From Pasab, district governors took the deputy governor to the local bazaar to show the progress in security and commerce being made in the last 11 months by Soldiers in Task Force Spartan and their Afghan security forces partners.

The group then moved to the vehicle inspection station in Maiwand district, nicknamed the "Flying J," which is run predominantly by Afghan security forces.

The "Flying J" helps monitor traffic that travels along Highway 1. Maintaining control of the vehicle traffic through the districts helps the Afghan security forces to interdict weapons, drugs and insurgents traveling through the area.

Visitors then moved to the Howz-e-Madad bazaar, which historically was a volatile area. Now, the bazaar is a bustling commerce center for the local village. Nearly a mile-long stretch of Highway 1 is packed with shops selling everything from motorcycles to fresh fruit.

Just off the highway is the Howz-e-Madad clinic and school that opened this summer. The clinic, staffed with Afghan doctors, is one of the best-equipped health care facilities in the region. Its location was chosen because of its easy access to the rest of the district. Since Highway 1 is such an important road, nearly anyone in the district can get to the Howz-e-Madad clinic.

After visiting the clinic, the group moved to the Bag-E-Pol Park, where the park's owner had received a $10,000 micro-grant to improve his business. The park, located directly next to the Bag-E-Pol Bridge, has shops, meeting halls and a small zoo. The Zharay District governor gave a quick speech at the park, and then the group of governors cut the ribbon of the bridge officially opening it to the public.

"We all know the importance of Highway 1 to the nation of Afghanistan; it is the international symbol of progress across Afghan-istan," said Col. Patrick D. Frank, Task Force Spartan commander. "It is the economic lifeline of the major cities of Afghanistan.

"For Maiwand and Zharay," the colonel added, "it is the face of the nation passing through the districts."

Page last updated Wed February 22nd, 2012 at 15:50