Monday, December 8, 2008


Something as simple as filling sandbags can be done skillfully and easily or it can be more difficult, as I learned today. I spent the morning slinging an ax to chop up some earth to put in the bags later. I tended to hit the dirt hillside pretty hard, swinging the ax from the end of the grip with long, powerful strokes…I learned somewhere along the line that the trick to using an ax is to let the ax do the work, so I didn’t put a lot of effort into it, but I was certainly putting in enough effort to get a bit of a sweat up and get my muscles to tighten up a bit. I saw the ANA watching me with amused expressions…finally one of them came over to me and offered to help. He proceeded to use much shorter, faster strokes to chop up the dirt, and in half the time had twice as much dirt loosened up as I did.

Once we got a fair amount of loose dirt gathered we started to put it in the bags. Apparently, I did not learn anything from my experience with the ax because I started with the shovel and was striking it into the ground in order to get the dirt. Our interpreter (a former 1st Sergeant with the ANA and probably one of our best gunmen) saw me doing that and was like, “No, no, you’re putting too much effort into it and you’ll have blisters in 10 minutes…watch me, I was a farmer during the Taliban time.” So he took the shovel and then easily and smoothly dipped into the earth, pulled up a shovel-full of dirt and then slid it into the bag - no problem. Easy does it. Since the ANA don’t work on Fridays, none would help with holding the sandbags or moving them around afterwards, but they were willing to take turns on the shovel, and they were all very good at effortlessly scooping out a shovel-full of dirt and then getting it into the sandbag. The other marines and I here just didn’t get it - we’d either pick the wrong area from which to get the good, soft dirt, or we’d have a hard time getting it into the bag, or we’d just be too slow with the shovel. I also learned to fold over a couple inches of the top of the sandbag to make it easier to get the dirt in. In the end, we got sandbags into the places I wanted and have a bunch left over to use later. I wasn’t about to stop filling bags until we had a ton of them filled…once you get these guys working and contributing you’ve got to roll with it as far as it goes…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For Sandbag Filling use what they use at Camp LeJeune. The SandHopper, or the smaller back-packable SmartBagger. You do the whole job standing up! No shovel hits on hands, either. Look at We make the SandHopper in England and in Alabama USA.