Crushing in a war zone

By |  October 23, 2013

Portable crushing and screening equipment manufacturer Screen Machine Industries Inc. has completed a contract to supply a complete system to the U.S. Air Force at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. As with many military contracts, finalizing took months to complete and required Screen Machine personnel to travel 7,000 miles from home – and deep into hostile territory.

According to Screen Machine, delivering the purchase order was the first and most important step in the process. But getting four large pieces of construction machinery from the factory in Columbus, Ohio, to a war zone in Afghanistan had the potential to be a logistical nightmare.

Transport challenges
The system chosen includes Screen Machine’s JXT jaw crusher, a 4043T impact crusher and a Spyder 516T screening plant. All three were shipped via truck from the factory to the port in Savannah, Ga.

The system being used at Kandahar Air Field includes Screen Machine’s JXT jaw crusher, a 4043T impact crusher and a Spyder 516T screening plant.

The system being used at Kandahar Air Field includes Screen Machine’s JXT jaw crusher, a 4043T impact crusher and a Spyder 516T screening plant.

A CH40 radial stacking conveyor with its own diesel power module was loaded into a 40-ft. container and moved to a port in Norfolk, Va. All equipment was then loaded aboard ships for the long trek across the ocean through waters Somali pirates often patrol to Port Qasim in Karachi, Pakistan.

The system was eventually reloaded onto trucks for the last leg of the journey to Kandahar Air Field. But the final stretch included travel through the mountainous border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as the treacherous stretch from the border into the heart of the Taliban in Kandahar province.

Due to stringent measures put in place to regulate materials and equipment entering Afghanistan, completing the contract was sometimes tedious and time consuming, according to Screen Machine. The approval 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, the process spanned five months, from the time of arrival at the port in Karachi until the equipment reached its final destination in Kandahar.

Screen Machine contractors were required to perform setup and training on the equipment as part of the contract. This step involved passing a federal criminal background check and securing a visa through the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. Upon entering Kandahar Air Field, personnel were required to surrender their passports in order to obtain contractor badges. An armed police escort was assigned to contractors at all times for their safety.

Operating equipment
On site, Screen Machine’s equipment is being used for making new quarries, generating base course, coarse aggregate for concrete, and drainage rock. The system’s initial use, though, was for recycling concrete to be reused in building helipads, runways and roads.

Delivering the equipment from its starting point in Columbus, Ohio, was one of many challenges overcome.

Delivering the equipment from its starting point in Columbus, Ohio, was one of many challenges overcome.

According to Screen Machine, both the JXT jaw crusher and 4043T impact crusher were used as primary and secondary crushers, respectively, 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 airmen to generate two separate, usable products while sorting out the trash. The fine material is mixed back into new concrete mixes, while the mid-sized product can be used for road base.

The two most obvious issues confronted in the field are the excessive heat and dust. The heat creates a couple of problems, according to Screen Machine. For example, it’s difficult for workers to remain hydrated. Often, it’s only possible to work 20- to 30-minute intervals. Fluid intake has to be fairly constant. Several airmen had to be treated with intravenous fluids for dehydration during the week Screen Machine personnel were in the country.

Another problem the heat creates is keeping the machines running cool. The machines usually operate between four and five hours at a time, with one-hour shutdowns between usage intervals. Engine temperatures and coolant levels are regularly monitored.

Dust is another major issue. Couple the desert’s dust with the dust generated from crushing concrete, and dust levels were extremely high. Dust particularly creates a concern for items like bearings, filters, belts, fans and radiators. The periodic maintenance intervals had to be shortened, especially on engine filter cleaning and changing.

Occasionally, sandstorms push across the base, and they seemingly bring dusk in the middle of the afternoon. Sandstorms compound the dust concerns.

Rocket attacks are a concern, as well, although they are usually poorly aimed and fairly harmless. Still, they keep everyone grounded and alert.

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