Removing remnants of war

10 Sep 2003 | Army Staff Sgt. David Bennett

Following the topple of Saddam Hussein's regime, reminders of the war still remain in the forms of burned out vehicles, destroyed weapon systems and toppled buildings inside the city of An Najaf.

However, soldiers attached to 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, are taking steps to remove the hulking piles of debris and twisted iron skeletons that blot the sides of roadways and public areas within city limits.

Army Maj. Michael L. Laabs, projects officer for the 432nd Civil Affairs Battalion of Green Bay, Wis., said a coalition-sponsored initiative began Sept. 6 to remove 143 disabled vehicles from around the city.

While scrap vehicles proliferate An Najaf, the biggest cleanup centers on a number of massive government buildings that were obliterated by coalition bombs during the war.

"There were main targets in town that were batched pretty good," said Laabs, a resident of Denmark, Wis.

Work has begun on several buildings and complexes destroyed, including a destroyed Fadayeen military complex and an intelligence center used by the Iraqi government.

Aimen Al Jazary is the owner of local firm contracted to dismantle the former mayor?s building destroyed in the bombing. Inside a walled area by Kufa Road, the structure?s footprint is as large as soccer field. Al Jazary estimates that when it was standing, the building's total space measured about 1,000 square meters.

Now, all that is left behind are tangles of rebar steel and huge slabs of concrete that must be broken up and loaded into a truck to be hauled away.

"Everyday we remove 300 tons," he said, as a worker operated a large backhoe to move piles of debris.

While this work is going on, truck drivers from the Noor Mustafa Co. are removing disabled cars and trucks that dot roadsides and empty lots. Those not destroyed completely during the war have been stripped of all removable parts by vandals.

According to Laabs, about 140 vehicles and weapon pieces have been hauled to the scrap yard since late August. Finding acceptable bids was a harder task, he said.

"Bids were from $50 to $150 per car," he said.

Deeming these quotes too high, Laabs established a competitive bidding process. The winning firm agreed to a price of $33 per vehicle removal.

Work is scheduled to be completed by the middle of September.