Missouri Guardsmen help rebuild Afghanistan

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller, 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs

As anyone might imagine, travel around the mountainous Paktya Province of Afghanistan is not an easy feat. Thatâ??s exactly why soldiers with the 1438th Engineer Multi-Role Bridge Company of the Missouri National Guard, constructed the Maybe-Johnson bridge in the village of Laka Tiza, Afghanistan from Aug. 30 through Sept. 3.

â??During the rainy season of this past year, the abutment of an existing bridge had washed out, collapsing half of the bridge,â?? said U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Stephen Keene, soldier with the 1438th Engineer MRBC, and native of Columbia, Mo. â??This bridge helps facilitate [traffic to] the forward operating bases that are around this area, fixing it will help the civilians also by keeping them from driving in the creek bed and out of harmâ??s way.â??

But working in a fast-paced, potentially hazardous, environment is a difficult obstacle to overcome, especially for new soldiers without the experience of a previous deployment.

â??About two thirds of my soldiers are new to the unit and have never deployed before,â?? explained Capt. Mack Gaono, company commander of 1438th Engineer MRBC, and native of Cape Girardeau, Mo. â??Iâ??ve been in 17 years and havenâ??t deployed, this is my first. Iâ??ve been waiting years for this. This, right here is what weâ??ve been trained for.â??

The long hours spent preparing for this deployment shows, even though some of the company members have not even been in the country for a full a week.

â??Iâ??m enjoying this [deployment] so far, Iâ??ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid,â?? said Spc. Shelton Johnson, native of Novinger, Mo.

Johnson says serving his country is something he's always felt strongly about and being able to put his training to use gives him a sense of accomplishment.

â??I think itâ??s gone pretty smooth for the most part,â?? Johnson said. â??We ran in to a couple of snags, we had a couple of bays that wouldnâ??t work with us, they bent up but we were able to tweak them to get them to work.â??

Overcoming several small setbacks along the way, the company continued working diligently around the clock, and successfully completed their mission.

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