By Army Sgt. Brian Tierce
Special to American Forces Press Service
Nov. 12, 2008 - Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers of the 1st Infantry Division's 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, attended a bridge reopening ceremony in northwestern Baghdad's Kadhamiyah district yesterday. The Al Aima Bridge had been closed since 2005 when a deadly stampede caused the deaths of nearly 1,000 Shiite pilgrims.
The reopening was more than just a ribbon-cutting event, said Army Lt. Col. John Vermeesch, the battalion's commander, who oversaw the ceremony.
"The opening of this bridge is symbolic of the unity in Baghdad," Vermeesch said. "Opening this bridge also indicates sectarian relations and security have improved due to the hard work of local leaders and coalition forces."
The ceremony marking the reopening of the bridge was a festive even,t and included an Iraqi army band and a ceremonial sheep sacrifice. Baghdad's mayor and the major Iraqi army and police commanders of the Karkh district attended.
Before the ceremony, Iraqi police officers and soldiers cleared and secured the bridge.
"Iraqi security forces have played an instrumental role in not only making an event like this possible, but also in helping the bridge reconstruction project run smoothly," Army Maj. Koné Faulkner of the 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team said.
The event went off without incident, and traffic began flowing across the bridge.
"The people were in a celebratory mood, waving Iraqi flags as they drove across the bridge," Vermeesch said. "This event, along with others scheduled for the future in the Kadhamiyah district of northwest Baghdad, will continue to promote security and good sectarian relations in the area."
(Army Sgt. Brian Tierce serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 1st Infantry Division's 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team.)