BAGHDAD – Things are back in full swing these days on the outskirts of Salmak Pak in the Mada in Qada district of Iraq.
One month after the Soldiers from the Earth Moving platoon, Company A, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 225th Engineer Brigade and security elements from the 2-6 Infantry, 1st Armor Division and the 6th Iraqi Army worked together to complete an eight day mission in the south-east area of Baghdad, the streets here are now free of old fighting positions and the concrete barriers that dotted the landscape.
“The work that was conducted out here a month ago has definitely improved the living conditions for everyone in this area,” said Capt. Jeremy North, a native of Oxford, Wis., and the 2-6 Infantry Task Force engineer.
“The local Iraqi people can once again easily access the local businesses and resources and Coalition forces now have increased mobility enhancing their ability to quickly respond to threats in the area. I believe the Iraqis are excited about having their town look like a town again.”
The engineers removed concrete barriers and HESCO bastions, a collapsible wire mesh container and heavy duty fabric liner filled with earth, gravel, or sand and used to shield against blast or small-arms fire. Along with the usual equipment of loaders and 20-ton dump trucks, the engineers also deployed two cranes to move concrete walls, bunkers, and jersey barriers for possible future use elsewhere.
Working under the cover of night, the mission involved Soldiers removing almost 200 jersey barriers, 40 other concrete wall sections and two bunkers. U.S. engineers used two cranes and one five-yard loader to place the walls on tractors and trailers.
“The mission was an all around endeavor by both Iraqi and U.S. Soldiers. The Iraqi Army assisted us by providing site security across numerous points on the route and the 2-6 INF TF Soldiers provided both site security and convoy security,” said Staff Sgt. Lawrence R.J. Willeford, a Lawton, Okla., native and EM platoon non-commissioned officer in charge.
“Together we moved and removed hundreds of walls and barriers to open up parking lots to businesses and access to the elementary school.”
With the strands of concertina wire that once hand-railed the route removed, U.S. and Iraqi troops worked until dawn to remove the countless tons of materials. Willeford hoped that their efforts demonstrated a return to normalcy for local Iraqis.
The work accomplished along the route was an important step for both Coalition and Iraqi forces in signifying that conditions in Iraq have steadily improved. With the overall violence in Baghdad down nearly 70 percent, fighting positions set along the route were no longer necessary.
With the majority of the walls and barriers removed, traffic along the route has improved which supports greater economic activity in the area. The route sanitation mission improved not only traffic flow along the route, but also made it difficult for insurgents to emplace roadside bombs.
The existing checkpoints that were not removed along the route were reduced in total overall size, but improved in total protection stature.
The engineers also worked on removing barriers from in front of schools and businesses to make access to the locations much easier for the local population.