BAGHDAD - As Coalition forces transition out of Baghdad cities, facility requirements change for U.S. Soldiers. In response to the repositioning of U.S. forces in accordance to the Security Agreement, the engineers of 1st Platoon, Company A, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), 225th Engineer Brigade, expanded housing for the 82nd Airborne Division by transforming a high-rise office building into a high-rise apartment building for Soldiers .
Remodeling a gutted building for housing required a big effort and 1st Platoon worked extended shifts in order to get the Soldiers into better living conditions at Joint Security Station Loyalty.
“When I first saw the building I knew that it was going to be a lot of work, but I could see that by the time we got through it we would really improve the standard of living for these Soldiers,” said Sgt. Antonio Woods, from Seaford, Del., team leader for the project. “We wanted to get the job done as quickly as we could so Soldiers could move in, but we had to have the best quality so it would be nice.”
A construction team installed over 45 tons of e-glass ballistic protection for windows, e-glass is a type of glass that keeps Soldiers safe from various threats. The Soldiers cutting the e-glass had to wear full wet weather gear and respirators to protect them from airborne fiberglass exposure.
“The [e-glass] material was extremely heavy. When we were first learning to work with it we had a hard time, but as we got farther along we got a better idea of how to handle it,” said Allentown, Pa. native, Spc. Kimberly Ortiz, a member of the specialized team.
The electrical crew ran close to five miles of electrical wire inside the high-rise and installed nine electrical panel boxes. The finished electrical system includes features like fire alarms and exit signs to ensure Soldiers’ safety.
In order to provide adequate exits for the building, the demolition crew broke through two-foot thick brick walls in nine locations with pick axes, sledge hammers and a lot of sweat. The demolition crew also removed an existing non-functional duct system that was filthy.
The six week project resulted in renovated fifth, sixth and seventh floors of the gutted high-rise building and provided 72 rooms outfitted with ballistic protection and improved exits to meet modern building requirements. It now offers 24,000 square feet of finished living space for the paratroopers and each of the newly-finished rooms includes electrical outlets and individual climate controls that can be adjusted using television-style remotes.
Construction missions in Iraq are especially meaningful to engineers because wherever they go there is evidence of the work they’ve accomplished.
“The Soldiers of 1st Platoon, Company A are proud to be able to visit JSS Loyalty and tell their peers, ‘I built that. I made a difference for the troops that are living here,’” said Las Crusas, N.M. native, Staff Sgt. Juan Zavala, a squad leader with the 46th Eng. Bn.