Saturday, January 28, 2006
Barbwire and HESCOs
This is an image which is played out over and over both here and in Afghanistan; combat engineers putting out barbwire and setting up HESCO barriers. HESCOs are large light gray foursquare bags, fitted into wire mesh receptacles and then filled with dirt. Think of a paper grocery bag with its top edges folded over lining a trash can. Urban legend has it that each HESCO is incredibly expensive. Based on the rumors, which I won't repeat, anyone who invested in their namesake company prior to 9/11 is standing in high cotton. Inside the perimeter of these HESCO fortresses a thick blanket of gravel is laid down over the dirt. As a result inside the wire one develops a certain way of walking, much like the bowlegged gait used when strolling across soft deep sand at the beach. The crunch of boots trodding over golfball size rocks is the basic soundtrack of life here. The engineers wear thick leather gloves when unrolling and laying out barbwire. What you see here is a Marine creating a manageable skein of wire from a dense heavy mother spool. Somewhere in a cargo pocket out of sight is a heavy duty wire cutter. Having a good wire cutter readily available is a necessity for another reason. Barbwire is virtually invisible at night through NVGs(night vision goggles)and just about every Marine and soldier in Iraq can relate episodes where yards of it has wrapped itself around the axle and tires of an unsuspecting HUMVEE or 7 ton truck creating hideously confounding Gordian knots. Like Alexander the Great's response to Gordius' challenge there's only one solution(usually discovered after a futile attempt at backing up has geometrically compounded the problem)available to the Marines, cut, cut and cut some more.