Story and Photos by
1st Lt. Russell Marron
561st Engineer Company, 84th Eng. Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command
NOGALES, Ariz. — The war on drugs received critical support as engineers paved the way for greater surveillance and control of the rugged and unruly border region in southern Arizona.
The 84th Engineer Battalion, 130th Eng. Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, led recent efforts by constructing a road along a treacherous ridgeline adjacent to the U.S.-Mexico border in the foothills of the Pajarito Mountains, here.
The Pajarito Mountains are one of several mountain ranges along the 262 miles of U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona where illegal drugs are smuggled into the U.S.
The 561st Eng. Company, “Warriors,” 84th Eng. Bn., recently completed a 45-day mission as the first of three phases to construct a new, all-weather lookout road in the area. The project represents large-scale cooperation between Joint Task Force-North, the U.S. Forestry Service, and the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
The all-weather lookout road will allow the U.S. Border Patrol to extend its surveillance and improve its counter-drug and transnational threat operations in the area.
The scope of the project included excavating three massive hilltops and filling two deep saddles over a distance of half a mile — the most challenging road construction project undertaken by any unit assigned to JTF-North, Northern Command, since JTF began providing support to the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in 1989.
“The project was extremely rewarding for my platoon, not only because we are supporting such an extensive cooperation of government agencies in the war against drugs, but also because the project represents the most challenging terrain we have ever worked on,” said Staff Sgt. Sergio Carrasco, 3rd Platoon sergeant, 561st Eng. Co. “My Soldiers have truly become expert heavy equipment operators capable of building roads anywhere in the world.”
As a construction-effects battalion, the 84th Eng. Bn. delivers a wide range of capabilities, from undertaking various construction projects to supporting humanitarian assistance or combat operations overseas.
The project represents the third cooperation between the 561st Eng. Co. and JTF-North, Northern Command, in support of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s counterdrug and transnational threat operations to reduce the availability of illegal drugs in the U.S.
For its efforts, 3rd Platoon was awarded a prestigious safety award for completing its 45-day mission without any injuries to personnel or damage to equipment resulting from an unsafe act.
The safety award, presented by JTF-North, is the first safety award to ever be received by any unit assigned to the 130th Eng. Bde.
The battalion will continue its construction projects, both on and off island, in the future. The 3rd Platoon will begin its next project shortly after returning to Hawaii. Its engineers will build a new, 15.8-acre engineer training area on Schofield Barracks — which will be the largest engineer training area on the island of Oahu and the first additional training location built for Army engineers in more than two years.