LCpl James Hylands (39), from Shaw, Oldham is a TA soldier who is currently serving with 8 Troop, 73 Armoured Engineer Squadron (AES) on Operation HERRICK 17. He deployed along with the rest of 21 Engineer Regiment (21 Engr Regt) as part of Task Force Helmand Engineer Group, at the beginning of September 2012. Whilst on tour the squadron is know as Engineer Close Support Squadron 1, which covers the northern areas of operation of Task Force Helmand (TFH).
Golden Egg – bridge task
Back home in the UK the run-up to Christmas will have begun. Adverts appearing on TV of so-called celebrities promoting their exclusive weight loss DVDs, all of which is marketed nicely when people historically work less and eat more during the Christmas period. All I can say is don’t waste your money. If want a serious workout with rapid weight loss join us in our non-equipment bridge task, alternatively known as ‘GOLDEN EGG’.
Running around in 20kg body armour or carrying your holiday suitcase with you at all times in heat of 25 deg lifting and moving heavy bridge parts in record time will have the desired results you are looking for! Physically and mentally demanding but extremely rewarding when complete is the best way of selling it. Headed up by Cpl Chilton the brief was delivered to the troops, “we will travel down to the green zone in convoy, the MGB (medium girder bridge) which is currently in place requires stripping out and rebuilding 15 meters to the right of its current location. While this is taking place, the new landing area needs prepping in record time ready to accept the MGB, this will be completed by the plant operators. The area is currently being cleared as we speak. The Royal Marines have provided a troop to provide security whilst we work.”
Day one went to plan and by 1600 hrs the troop was back inside PB Clifton ready for day two to commence.
Not being a NEB (non equipment bridge) expert the one thing I learned quickly from the experienced lads, is the foundations consisting of abutments and steel girders which would span the flowing river, had to be precisely flat and level in place. If they weren’t, the rest of the bridge which goes on top would be wrong and fit incorrectly, “measure twice complete once” I heard someone quote. Due to this, the next two days were a sequence of test-measure-adjust then continue, all with the help of a heavy duty crane supplied and operated by a local contractor.
By the start of day four, as a quick update, we were looking at an MGB in its temporary location being used constantly by the locals so not to disturb their pattern of life especially during the harvest period. A new flood defence was installed on the far side of the river to give extra protection in high waters, 6 abutments were fitted (3 either side of the river) levelled out and secure with ten ‘I’ section girders spanning in length of 12meters (just over 40 feet) linking the two together, all was going to plan.
Pulled out all the stops
The next stage of the operation, to give us a chance of getting within the five-day window, was a dual task on the NEB, splitting the troop down into half and half; one lot would be fitting the kerbs and wood along the bridge giving the backbone of strength, the other half would use the plant to deliver a smooth ramp for the entry and exit of the bridge. Once completed the final day was upon us in rapid time this would take the efforts of all the team to fit the wearing surfaces of the bridge. The wearing surface is the external surface of the bridge, the visual element, so appearance had to be everything. Each wooden run was individually cut at a angle, placed in position with equal spacers in between then nailed, ensuring all nails and fittings ran in the same sequence as you crossed the bridge. It would and did leave a professional finish but it took time, by 1600 hrs on the final day a small element had to continue with the wearing surface.
A few locals who were watching at the time helped out as they could see we really wanted to finish the project before it got dark that night. The remainder of the troop had to form up in order that the MGB could be stripped out ready to be returned to Main Operating Base Price. Tired and weary from the last couple of days work, the troop pulled out all the stops in the final hurdle of dismantling the MGB. 1800hrs came and all was finished, the locals were now viewing the rapid transformation to their landscape, within a few minutes the site was left complete and tidy as we mounted up in the vehicles. We headed back to PB Clifton, chuffed and relieved all was finished, as a reward Lt Morton gave us the next day off, no more 5.30am get-ups, a lie in… great!
Read about James here: Lance Corporal James Hyland