Saturday, October 3, 2009

A Tough and Dirty Job for the Marines

In the Nimruz Province of Afghanistan, Marines of the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment have been searching ancient tunnels. These tunnels form a network between the snow-capped tops of the Buji Bhast Mountains and the very arid desert in the Nimruz Province. Most adventure junkies would love to have the opportunity to explore these tunnels. Although it is as far from fun as you could get for the Marines with the possibility of stumbling over an explosive set to be triggered. For the last couple years, insurgents have been using these tunnels as a form of secretive transportation and storage of materials that could make the very deadly IED’s, or improvised explosive devices. The Marines are putting a stop to this secret advantage the insurgents have had for many years. While searching the tunnels the Marines have found weapons, dwelling and trash. It is with out a doubt that the insurgents are using these tunnels to their advantage. Collapsing the tunnels would be the easiest thing to inhibit the insurgent’s use of them. Although that is out of the picture because that would severely affect farmers’ irrigation systems. That means the only way to deter the insurgents use of the tunnels is to search them personally or with a robot. These tunnels are wet, completely dark and range from 40 to 100 feet underground. A robot is used when it is too unsafe for a Marine to search the tunnels. The robots have has varying degrees of success searching the tunnels. "Yesterday we sent the bot into three holes. In the first one it could only go in about eight feet, so we had to go in, retrieve it and investigate on foot," said Markbot operator Cpl. Garrett Andrews the day after a series of tunnel hunts. "Later we sent the bot down but didn't see any man-made passages." The tunnel investigations also help with the programs to decrease the dependency of poppy growth to the economy of Afghanistan. The Marines can determine which wells will be irrigating which fields before the growing season starts. That way the government may have the ability to convince the farmers to grow something else. The government has been distributing bags of wheat starting last growing season. Click Here For the Full Story

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