Welder works to prevent casualties along Afghanistan's most important highway
Logar Province, Afghanistan — In a hot tent on Forward Operating Base Shank with an American flag hanging from the ceiling works an U.S. Army welder whose recent project can help save many lives in eastern Afghanistan.
Reggae, soul music and rhythm and blues pours out of Sgt. Patrick Lewis's stereo as he goes to work welding together rebar to create culvert denial systems.
The systems will help prevent insurgents from placing improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, in culverts along Afghanistan's Highway 1.
Lewis, who hails from Queens, N.Y., is originally from Jamaica, and moved to the United States in 2001.
He learned to weld at the Apex Technical School in Manhattan, N.Y., and joined the U.S. Army in 2007, as an allied trade specialist. He currently serves in Company B, 703rd Brigade Support Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
Lewis, the primary welder in Company B, has completed many projects since arriving at FOB Shank, such as repairing radio towers and building steel gates, but this project is expanding his reach into Wardak and Logar provinces.
Preventing the emplacement of IEDs is essential to help prevent military and civilian casualties.
"Highway 1 is a main supply route going from [Bagram Airfield] to Ghazni, and a critical point of our mission here is to keep that safe," said 1st Lt. Shane Hook, Company B executive officer.
The brigade counter-IED office passed a sketch of the system's design down the chain of command to Lewis. Then, rebar was shipped from Bagram Airfield.
"We do just about anything," Lewis said. "You name it, if you can come up with a picture and show us that, we can make it. It's as simple as that."
The static crackling sound can be heard as Lewis welds the rebar together into a cone-like shape.
Spc. Jonathan Carpenter, a native of Pendleton, S.C., and a wheeled vehicle mechanic in Company B, who helps Lewis when he's not servicing vehicles, said the culvert denial system will allow water to flow through the culvert, but deny insurgents the ability to plant IEDs inside of them.
Lewis said the system would benefit all U.S. forces as well as Afghans who travel on Highway 1.
Lewis has a good reputation as a hard worker within the brigade.
"He's a measure-twice, cut-once type of guy, which is good," said Hook. "That is exactly the type you want."
First Sgt. Robert Walker, a native of Bryant, Ala., and the Company B first sergeant, said Lewis is one of his better noncommissioned officers.
"He takes every opportunity he can to teach soldiers," Walker explained.
Lewis' good reputation stems from his enjoyment of his job.
"I love what I do," Lewis said. "This is me playing my part. If this is what I can do to prevent the loss of another U.S. service member, then I'm more than willing to contribute in whatever way I can."