“We started the mission when we conducted a recon of the initial area,” explained Maj. John G. St. Romain, 769th Engineer Battalion’s executive officer and commander of the Cameron Parish operations. “We looked at all the sites that were identified as initial concerns. We then came up with a plan. Hescos were our best option, and that’s what we’ve been doing since then.”
The Hesco units are multi-cellular wall systems manufactured from welded coated steel wire mesh and linked with vertical coil joints. Once erected, the Hesco units are filled with sand to form an effective barrier against possible oil encroachment. The standard unit size is 3 square feet. Each basket holds three cubic yards of sand, which weighs approximately 2,700 pounds.
The main purpose of the Hesco barrier wall is to help keep oil from soiling the shore. A couple of weeks ago, the wall served yet another purpose, as a surge protector, from the high tides Hurricane Alex caused.
“Every year the area is affected and roads are flooded when the tide is high. This time, the water did not go over the road. DOTD was out here for 45 minutes inspecting the damage and clearing the roadway,” said St. Romaine. “Usually, it takes them several days. That means this wall proved to be successful.”
Hurricane Alex’s high tides caused some damage to the wall, but also allowed the team to learn from its effects. In the more vulnerable areas, additional walls of Hesco baskets were built behind the first one, further away from the water to reinforce the barrier. The Soldiers also created a “T” shape with the baskets every 15 feet for more strength.
“I work construction, so the experience I am getting here will help me in my civilian job,” said Spc. Justin C. Boudin of Baton Rouge, La. Boudin and his fellow engineers have volunteered to spend their summer on the Louisiana beaches warding off the threat of potential oil coming in from the Gulf.
The medic for the project feels the same.
“I need to be out here with my guys,” said Spc. Justin W. Arnone, also from Baton Rouge. “I’m making sure they are drinking plenty of water, taking breaks and getting enough rest. We’ve been out here for over two months, and so far, we haven’t had any heat causalities.”