Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Engineers Establish Presence In Basra

by 1st Lt. Aaron Saari
610th Engineer Support Co.

COB ADDER, Iraq (March 3, 2009) — “Who doesn’t want to go to Basra?” Pfc. Andrew Logan, from New Richmond, Ohio, and a few other soldiers raised their hands following their platoon sergeant’s question.

It was the beginning of December 2008 and 3rd Platoon, 610th Engineer Support Company of the 14th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade, from Fort Lewis, Wa., was preparing to move south from the relative luxury of Contingency Operating Base Adder to the drastically different living conditions in the British-controlled Basra province.

The platoon, which specializes in horizontal construction, is still working at COB Basra located at the Basra Airport more than two months after making the initial move. They have been building the infrastructure required for U.S. forces to assume control of the second largest city in Iraq following the planned British departure from the country this spring. The Soldiers of the platoon spent the weeks before Christmas preparing a living area for housing units and have spent the month of January constructing a fueling point that will support the U.S. Soldiers who will replace the British soldiers.

New construction on U.S. bases in Iraq may sound counter-intuitive considering U.S. forces are required to end operations in Iraq by the end of 2011, but sometimes it is necessary to take two steps forward and one step back. Less than a year ago, COB Basra received more than 400 indirect fire attacks per month. In the two months that the platoon has been operating in Basra, the COB has received only one indirect fire attack. Because the level of security in the area has made such an immense leap forward, the British are prepared to turn the province over to United States control in the coming months.

British and U.S. forces in Basra have been working together for months in preparation for the transition. Lt. Jacobus Van Der Merwe, a troop commander in the British Royal Engineers who recently finished constructing a Joint Security Station in the city for the U.S. military police, said, “It is great seeing our countries work hand in hand. We are preparing the US-Iraqi stations in the city while the US engineers are preparing the COB. In the end, it will be a smooth transition because we have been living and working with each other for so long.”

Though they are working upwards of ten hours per day, the soldiers of 3rd Platoon rarely have anything negative to say about living and working with the British. After a month of operating at COB Basra, Pfc. Logan has even had a change of heart. “I really like working here in Basra,” he said. “It’s a lot different from all of the U.S. bases in the country and the days are going by quickly because we are constantly busy building. I hope we stay here the rest of the deployment.”

With many projects on COB Basra still to be completed and only six months of the platoon’s fifteen month tour remaining, it would be no surprise if his wish comes true.

Pfc. William Morgan scoops dirt to fill dump trucks with the 35,000 cubic yards required for the current construction project in Basra, Iraq.

Source: CENTCOM.

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