By Army Sgt. Henry Bauer
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 1, 2008 - Craters from roadside bombs can be found throughout the thousands of miles of roadway that cover Baghdad and the surrounding areas. When the attacks occur, it's time for the soldiers of 230th Concrete Team to "pour" into action.
The team is based out of Purvis, Miss., and is attached to 769th Engineer Battalion, 35th Engineer Brigade, Multinational Division Baghdad. It consists of soldiers who specialize as concrete mobile operators and concrete masonry troops in performing what is known as rapid crater repair.
"Through precise planning from the 769th Engineer Battalion, from Baton Rouge, La., these missions are flawlessly executed with the assistance of the 851st Vertical Engineer Company, from Little Falls, Minn.," said Army Lt. Col. Keith Waddell, a native of New Roads, La., 769th Engineer Battalion commander.
"Since arriving to Baghdad in October, this small group has repaired over 105 craters using 828.5 cubic yards of concrete to better assist the local Iraqi people by making their roads safer to drive on and to prevent anti-Iraqi forces from using the same crater to cause further harm," said Army Capt. Jason Mahfouz, a native of Lake Charles, La., the battalion's operations officer. "These repairs also benefit the soldiers of the Multinational Division Baghdad to carry out their mission here in Iraq."
A local Iraqi who serves as an Iraqi citizen security officer said the repairs are beneficial. "The smoother road makes for better driving," he said.
Whether the sun is beginning to rise or set, the soldiers from 230th Concrete Team, with assistance from the 851st Vertical Engineer Company, prepare to head out to perform the rapid crater repair missions. The soldiers and their equipment head out to various sites, day after day and night after night, to repair the roads that wait ahead of them.
"Once on site, and all security measures have been emplaced, the crater is dug out and shaped so that the reinforcing rebar can be properly placed," said Army Sgt. James Bridges, from Gulfport, Miss., a concrete mobile operator with 230th Concrete Team.
Because of the hardness of the rock below the roadway, sometimes a pneumatic jackhammer is used to shape the crater that is being repaired. The fact that the soldiers wear 60 pounds or more of protective gear makes the task physically demanding. Once the road is shaped, the soldiers pour concrete and work to make it the proper texture and consistency by shoveling sand into the mixer. Once the proper mixture is established, the tiring task of spreading the concrete evenly is performed with metal concrete rakes and shovels, Bridges said.
Once the concrete is evenly spread out, it is smoothed over with a large float to ensure that it is evenly packed on top. While the process is performed, another soldier uses a hand trowel to assure that the edges of the newly repaired crater are smoothed over the adjoining edges of the roadway.
Once the crater is repaired, these soldiers, who have nicknamed themselves the "Goons," sign the newly repaired roadway with their nickname, date and time. Before leaving the newly repaired area, the soldiers mark the site in the hopes that passing vehicles in the night will not damage the setting concrete. Then the entourage of vehicles moves to the next crater, Bridges said.
(Army Sgt. Henry Bauer serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with 769th Engineer Battalion, 35th Engineer Brigade, Public Affairs Office.)