CAMP RAMADI, Iraq -- A group of soldiers have pushed, scooped, hauled, dumped, shaped, and smoothed over 100,000 cubic yards of fill material to create a safer entry point into Camp Ramadi May 18.
Heavy equipment operators from the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy), a subordinate unit of the 9th Naval Construction Regiment, are leaving their mark in Western Iraq by rebuilding an essential entry point into the camp.
A key feature in the design of the gateway is a network of roads that divide military and civilian vehicle traffic along separate paths.
“The current access road is too narrow for trucks and the military and civilian vehicles to make it in safely,” said the officer in charge of the project, 2nd Lt. Richard Jones, 913th Engineering Company, from Union City, Tenn.
In the past, the slow traffic flow was not only an inconvenience for drivers, but it posed an additional hazard for personnel and military vehicles that were stalled in traffic.
The 913th EC moved massive amounts of road fill and placed concrete barriers throughout the site to reinforce the camp’s force protection.
“We’ve had two fatalities in the past year and a half, so they want to improve the force-protection aspect of it,” said Jones, whose company was activated to support the 46th ECB for the year-long deployment.
By creating a division between civilian and military traffic, the length of the roadway entrance has essentially doubled. Instead of causing traffic congestion on a nearby highway, the extra road capacity will allow more vehicles to enter the FOB staging area. This will also allow security personnel to observe civilian vehicles at multiple checkpoints before they are allowed on the base.
“This will give our troops more time to stop a vehicle versus what they had before,” said Sgt. Josiah Hughs of Erin, Tenn. A heavy equipment operator for the 913th EC, Hughs builds roads and creates subdivisions for a living in Tennessee.
This project may sound like a routine industrial roadway, but members of the 913th EC also installed a labyrinth of various-sized concrete barriers around the site.
The contributions of the National Guard haven’t gone unnoticed.
“The 46th ECB active duty component is quite happy with the amount of work we’ve done in such a small period of time,” said Jones. “They’re impressed with the quality of equipment operators that we have.”
There are 22 soldiers working the project. Dealing with 3,000 meters of road, they have hauled more than 5,000 cubic yards of gravel and used about 5,000 bags of cement.
“We’ve done construction projects you only dream about,” said Lt. Col. Carol Anderson of Denver, Colo., commander of the 46th ECB. She knows this project goes well beyond the immediate sense of force protection.
“Every project we have to complete is in direct support of military operations,” said Anderson. “At some point this area will be turned over to the Iraqi security forces.”
Anderson said that she is very proud of her soldiers and the level of commitment they have shown throughout their deployment.
“They know they are supporting the ultimate goal of transition of authority back to the Iraqi people,” she said. “I think it makes them work that much harder.”
Much of the work the 46th ECB completes will endure long after they leave.
“Our work here will remain in some form or fashion until we all die,” said Jones. “We’ve put in enough dirt and changed the shape of the land so that this project is permanent. We’ve made our mark on the world, one way or another.”
The new roadways will become even more important to Iraqi forces in the future. By helping to protect themselves and their assets, they can in turn protect the citizens of Iraq and their elected officials.