High Hopes for a Low-Tech Barrier Upgrade


You quite literally cannot go anywhere in the war zone without seeing the ubiquitous Hesco barrier -- the fabric and mesh modules filled with earth that defend forward operating bases from bad guys and the elements. FOBs in Iraq and Afghanistan are made from Hesco barriers sometimes stacked three or four high. The units arrive like folded up packing boxes, but when troops or combat engineers fill them with dirt, they form the backbone of a base's outer barrier.

The thing is, you often need a lot of heavy construction equipment to fill up enough Hescoes to build a base of the size you want. Then, when commanders want to pull the troops out and close the base, it's seldom worth breaking all the china to send engineers or Seabees back to the base to break down the Hescoes. So that can mean that American or allied forces have no choice but to effectively hand a defended position to the bad guys. Not only does that give them a new base, it's bad "optics" -- a propaganda victory.

"In two weeks you end up in the local press -- there's Terry Taliban standing on top of your barrier with his flag," said Jake McQueen, Hesco's sales manager. The company has a solution, though: New barrier units will come with a simple pin that opens the container to let troops spill out the dirt. So it'll be easier for soldiers to move and break down new Hesco barriers, the company says, because it can just spill out their contents without the need for heavy equipment. When allied troops pack up to leave, all Terry Taliban will get are piles of dirt.

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