Web Exclusive: Front lines

By |  October 10, 2011


Screen Machine Industries, manufacturer of portable crushing and screening equipment, is supplying a complete system to the U.S. Air Force at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. As with many military contracts, this journey was one that took months to complete and saw the company’s equipment and personnel travel 7,000 miles to potentially hostile territory. The equipment is being used at multiple locations in Afghanistan within U.S./NATO military installations.

Kandahar Air Field lies about 10 miles outside of the provincial capital of Kandahar City. An $850 million expansion was begun in 2009 in order to accommodate President Obama’s troop surge that would nearly double the size of the base. The 2009 surge in NATO operations in southern Afghanistan pushed the number of aircraft operations at the base from 1,700 to 5,000 flights per week. These numbers meant that Kandahar had become the busiest one-runway airport in the world.

The expansion would also make it the largest NATO base anywhere. Nearly 30,000 personnel from 40 nations now live and work within this sprawling compound. The new crushing and screening equipment is used to further this expansion.

Getting four large pieces of construction machinery from Columbus, Ohio all the way to a war zone in Afghanistan had the potential to be a logistical nightmare. The models JXT jaw crusher, 4043T impact crusher, and Spyder 516T screening plant were all shipped by truck from the factory to a port in Savannah, Ga. A CH40 radial stacking conveyor with its own diesel power module was loaded into a 40-ft. container and sent to a port in Norfolk, Va.

All equipment would then be loaded aboard ships for the long trek across the ocean through waters often patrolled by Somali pirates to Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan, where it would eventually be reloaded onto trucks for the last leg of the journey. This included travel through the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan and the treacherous stretch from the border into the heart of the Taliban in Kandahar province.


Owing to stringent measures put in place to regulate materials and equipment coming into the country, completing the contract was at times tedious and time consuming. The process involved multiple steps, including clearance by the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Afghan Ministry of Finance. In total, this was a five-month process from the time of arrival at the port in Karachi until the equipment reached its final destination in Kandahar.

On site, the equipment is used for making new quarries, and for generating base course, concrete aggregate and drainage rock. However, its initial use was for recycling concrete for use in building helipads, runways and roads. Both the JXT jaw crusher and 4043T impact crusher were utilized inline as a primary and secondary crusher with the 4043T discharging directly into the hopper of the Spyder 516T screening plant. The Spyder 516T was set up with 3-in. wire mesh top-deck screens and 3/4-in. wire mesh bottom deck screens. This allowed the airmen to generate two separate usable products while also sorting out the trash. The fine material would be mixed back into new concrete mixes while the mid-sized product could be used for road base.

Dusty environs

The two most-obvious issues to be confronted in the field would be the excessive heat and dust. The heat itself created a couple of problems. For the workers, it was difficult to remain hydrated. Often it was only possible to work 20- to 30-minute intervals and intake of fluids had to be near constant. Several airmen had to be treated with intravenous fluids for dehydration.

The other problem created by the heat was keeping the machines running cool. The machines usually operated for periods of four to five hours at a time with one-hour shut downs in between. Engine temperatures and coolant levels were regularly monitored. The dust was another major issue. When you couple the dust of the desert with the additional dust being generated by the crushing of the concrete, these levels were tremendously high. This created a concern for such items as bearings, filters, belts, fans and radiators.

The periodic maintenance intervals had to be shortened, especially on cleaning and changing of the engine filters. Sandstorms would occasionally push across the base, seemingly bringing dusk in the middle of the afternoon. This only helped to compound the dust concerns. Occasional rocket attacks were even more commonplace than the sandstorms. Though usually poorly aimed and fairly harmless, they nevertheless served to keep everyone grounded and alert. After all, this is a war zone.

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About the Author:

Darren Constantino is an editor of Pit & Quarry magazine. He can be reached at dconstantino@northcoastmedia.net.

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