1/26/2012 - Fort Huachuca, AZ -- The first phase of a new road being constructed by 40 airborne engineers from Alaska will pave the way for quicker Border Patrol response times along the U.S. and Mexico border.
The Soldiers of 84th Engineer Support Company, 6th Engineer Battalion (Combat) (Airborne), based at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, arrived at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., Jan. 6 to execute a Joint Task Force North engineer mission in support of the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector.
"The Soldiers have begun construction on close to a mile stretch of road for the U.S. Border Patrol," said U.S. Border Patrol Supervisory Agent, Steven Passement, Tucson Sector public affairs officer. "The road will facilitate a quicker reaction time for agents responding to illegal crossings and drug trafficking."
The mission will be completed Feb. 24 and is the first of three phases.
"We have done the cutting, clearing and grubbing. Incoming units will do drainage and the shaping of the road," said 2nd Lt. Michelle Zak, mission commander, 84th
"This is definitely a win-win situation to support the Border Patrol and get training at the same time," she added. "This is important because the Soldiers need to know how to operate in tight spaces and steep hills, and we get that here."
"This is an opportunity to get real world training that the Soldiers can use overseas, and Border Patrol gets a new all-weather road," Passement said.
"We drive on whatever roads are accessible, and where there aren't roads we get out and hike it. In the past it would have taken an hour or two hours to drive what just took us 10 minutes, because of the new road," he said. "During the monsoon season, roads get washed out and we have to go around, but they are creating all-weather roads that should hold up for a while."
There have been some challenges with the terrain, getting pieces of equipment that weigh tons up and down these hills.
"We have made a lot of head way, we created a rough road cut out and a brand new road," Zak said.
"It has been a great training opportunity for us because we don't get this type of terrain or training in Alaska," she added.
"It is 25 degree (below zero) weather in Alaska, with 15 inches of snow or more right now, that affects the equipment and the morale of the Soldiers," said Sgt. 1st Class, Everell Gustave, 84th ESC.
"If the morale is low because the Soldier is so cold that they don't want to operate the machinery, then it makes it that much tougher to meet the mission intent; morale is key to getting an operation done," Gustave said.
"It is important for us to train in this environment because it is not organic to us, we are not used to these conditions," he added.
The mission site is located three miles west of the Nogales Mariposa Port of Entry, along the U.S. and Mexico border.