Marine Combat Engineer Revels in Grind

CAMP DWYER, Afghanistan – It’s a day-by-day brawl over mounds of sand, steel mesh and heavy equipment, but he loves it.

Marine Corps Sgt. Adam Rehder, a Windyville, Mo., native and combat engineer with Combat Logistics Regiment 2, Regional Command Southwest, just walked off a 12-hour shift working on the perimeter here when he confessed he’d rather have a shower than eat food.

“I like to be clean,” Rehder said with a laugh. “It’s a muddy mess.”

He’s spent nearly an entire month tackling infrastructure improvement projects at the base. His extensive work with HESCO barriers -- wire-mesh containers reinforced with heavy-duty fabric -- earned him the endearing title “HESCO Master” among his Marines.

“I’ve actually grown to like it quite a bit,” said Rehder, who supervises the installation and layout of the large, dirt-filled barriers. “It’s windy out here most of the time. You sweat, and you have that [heavy equipment] dumping that load, and its blowing right in your face. … There isn’t anything you can do about it. It’s motivating, definitely.”

Rehder and his Marines stand on top of the HESCO barriers as earthmoving equipment fills the containers with load after load of gravel and powder-fine sand. By the end of their working period, the Marines are completely covered in said.

“They look like sugar cookies,” joked one observer.

The statement was accurate, but deceiving. The sand works its way into the Marines’ uniforms and clings to the sweat on their skin. By the time they finish showering, a pool of orange mud clogs the drain. Sometimes they don’t even bother undressing before entering the shower. “[It] takes a toll on your body,” Rehder acknowledged.

The Marines alternate positions during the harshest parts of the construction labor, and they work at night whenever possible.

“It’s safer, to be honest,” Rehder said. “It’s easier on the Marines and not as hot out. … I think we’re more proficient at night. During the day, [the heat] is going to draw that energy out of you.”

The summer weather in Afghanistan often is hot, even at night. It’s not uncommon for sandstorms to spring up and engulf the Marines as they work. Somehow, they not only endure the harsh conditions, but also have enough energy to sing comical songs about their predicament as they trudge up and down sand berms or coil old concertina wire.

“It’s amazing, it really is,” Rehder said. “I’ve been a lot of places, and I just feel like right here is where I’m supposed to be. The motivation level is high, the experience level is high, and it’s just awesome. … As far as where it comes from, I think it’s just knowing our job so well.”

For Rehder, part of the enjoyment is putting his crew’s extensive training to practical use. After more than a month of honing their teamwork in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the rhythm and communication within the unit began to solidify. It continued to grow from constant application in Afghanistan.

“We practice our [military specialty] quite a bit, which is awesome, because I like [it],” said Rehder. “We’re pretty good at what we do.”

The improvements at Camp Dwyer are just the beginning for Rehder and his team. They likely will complete construction projects at numerous other bases throughout Afghanistan’s Helmand province over the next several months.

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