By 1st Lt. Janeene Yarber and Maj. Jared Erickson, 46th ECB (H) PAO, 225 Eng. Bde.June 20, 2009
BAGHDAD - A 12 month deployment that started in Iraq has come to an end for 15 U.S. engineers, as they pack their gear to head for Afghanistan.
The Soldiers from the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) will make up the 31st Concrete Team to improve the quality of life for Soldiers fighting in Afghanistan. The concrete mission will take the team to new territory, but it's not entirely new for all the members of the team.
"I've deployed to Afghanistan once before," said Staff Sgt. Wesley Roach, team leader with 46th ECB (H), and a native of Rapid City, S.D. "This time will be very interesting. I'm not sure what all of our jobs will be, but we will definitely be helping to build up forward operating bases (FOB) in the outlying areas of Kandahar. I'm really looking forward to getting out there."
"The 31st Concrete Team's presence will be vital to the Kandahar Province," said Capt. Kimberly Cowlin, commander, Headquarters and Support Company, 46th ECB (H), from Childersburg, Ala. "They will construct reinforced concrete pads to provide improved living quarters, maintenance and other support facilities for Soldiers on several expanding forward operating bases."
Over the last 12 months, the concrete team has received numerous praises for improving the living conditions of their fellow Soldiers who spend hours patrolling the hot, dusty streets. Simple comforts of home like electricity, air-conditioning and showers can make a big difference at the end of the day for the hard-working Soldiers. The 31st Concrete Team hopes to add the Soldiers in Afghanistan to the list of other happy customers.
"The 31st Concrete team was [formed] approximately two months ago in order to improve the quality of life for Soldiers deploying to the Afghanistan theatre of operations," said Sgt. 1st Class James Dean, an equipment platoon sergeant with the46th ECB (H). "The 15 hand-picked warriors have been conducting concrete missions over the last 12 months here in Iraq. They are truly the technical experts."
As Roach waited for his flight to Afghanistan, June 1, the team leader could not hide his excitement about his new mission.
"I can't wait to get there to know exactly what we are going to be doing," stated Roach. "So, we can get the job done and come home."
While in Afghanistan, the 31st Concrete Team will be assigned to the 19th Engineer Battalion, based in Fort Knox, Ky. The 19th Eng. Bn. provides Army engineer support to U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, through the 25th Naval Construction Regiment, based in Gulfport, Miss.
The 31st Concrete Team will rejoin the 46th ECB (H) back at Fort Polk, in the fall of 2009 when the remainder of the battalion ends their tour in Iraq. The engineers said good-bye after being congratulated, wished a safe trip, hugged their friends, gathered their gear and prepared for their flights.
The team consists of: Sgt. Kellen Barns of Fallbrook, Calif., Sgt. Seth Willson of Rome, NY., Spc. Daniel Parker, Mansfield Center, Conn., Staff Sgt. Dennis Bartlett, Plant City, Fla., Spc. Christopher Bortell, Waterville, ME, Sgt. Dontai Smiley, Columbus, Ga., Pfc. Eric Vanstrander, Elmira, NY, Sgt. Nicholas Gibbs, Vernal, UT, Pfc. Pete Cervantes, Demotte, Ind., Sgt. Maurice Polite, St. Hellena, S.C., Pvt. Christopher Ruffin, Garner, NC, Sgt. Jeremy Royer, Rochester, N.H., Pvt. Joshua Heinl, New Carslile, OH, and Spc. Matthew Boyle, Syracuse, NY.