Today was a good day here in Kosovo. The weather was perfect for construction, about 75 degrees and sunny with a slight breeze for comfort but not enough to disrupt the placement of geotextile fabric on our road.
The gentle hills around Camp Bondsteel are starting to green up now, and a herd of sheep grazed quietly off in the distance. The mountain to our south with its snow-capped peak was particularly clear today. An ideal day for moving some dirt.
One of Horizontal platoon's projects is the construction of a road around the perimeter of Camp Bondsteel, a distance of approximately 6 kilometers with several culvert placements along the way. About a dozen of us are working jointly with Brown and Root Services (a civilian contractor) in this endeavor.
Three weeks worth of plugging along and making adjustments with our operation seemed to culminate in a synchronized effort today, and none of our operators missed a beat as they sculpted roadbed and ditches, rolled out matting material over the road's surface and guided trucks of rock and gravel onto the road for spreading.
Several of our newer soldiers began their journey toward becoming skilled operators, and it is rewarding to see them brimming with enthusiasm and pride as they master 30 tons of steel.
To the south of Camp Bondsteel the rest of our platoon is carving a bypass road out of a mountain much to the awe and amazement of local villagers, media and even Division Commanders. You may have even read about them in "Stars and Stripes."
I will finish my 14th year with Company B in July, and although my family and career have led us to reside in the Brainerd lakes area of Minnesota, transferring to a National Guard unit in closer proximity to Brainerd hardly entered my mind.
The camaraderie, friendships and experiences gained while serving with Bravo Company have been invaluable; and although I miss my family dearly every day, I knew that if I ever had to go on a deployment this was the group I would want to be with.
As the last grader parks online and the drone of the engine stops, you can hear the chirp of sparrows in the brush ahead and again it grows quiet. The equipment operators chatter among themselves as they discuss what was accomplished today and what lies ahead for tomorrow.
To be realistic, not very many days here are like this one. We do face various challenges in completing our missions here and personal struggles associated with being separated from loved ones.
Today, though, 900 feet of road was completed by day's end.
I cannot speculate on the long-term future of Kosovo (the road to sustained peace seems to be a long and complicated one). However, my hope is that the improvements we are making here will make life easier for thousands of Kosovars and NATO troops for years to come.
Yes, indeed, today was a good day.
(Staff Sergeant Steven L. Bontjes with his wife Rebecca and their daughter Ashley reside in the Brainerd area. Steve is the son of Larry and Norma Bontjes, Wahpeton, N.D. He is a graduate of North Dakota State College of Science and North Dakota State University. He is currently assigned as a Construction Equipment Section Sergeant with Bravo Company, 142nd Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), Wahpeton, N.D., with duty currently being performed in Kosovo.)
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