By Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 9, 2009 - While Iraqi soldiers provided security, U.S. soldiers of A Company, 9th Engineer Battalion, performed much-needed maintenance on an Iraqi road outside of Albu Hassan on Feb. 3. The road is a shortcut people use to travel from various villages to bigger cities such as Hillah and Karbala.
Battalion soldiers coordinated the project and contacted Iraqi army officials to provide security. Iraqi soldiers secured the surrounding area while Army Cpl. Bracy L. Bahm, a heavy construction equipment operator from Company A, filled in holes, graded mud and smoothed out the road with a bulldozer.
"The [Iraqi soldiers] know what they are doing, and they are always monitoring their sectors," Bahm said. "This is my second mission with [them], and I trust them to protect me while I am working out here."
The road is located next to a heavily used railroad track, presenting a potential danger for people who were forced by bad areas of the road to walk near the tracks, Bahm said. The road improvements allow people to maintain a safe distance from the railroad tracks, he added.
Having an easier route for people to get to the various markets within the province encourages economic activity, a local leader said.
"Citizens can bring their goods to the markets using this road, rather than taking the long drive around other cities and towns," said Sheik Abas Sabur al-Sultani, a student at the Democratic Religious University in Hillah. About 2 million Shiite Muslims will use the route for an upcoming religious pilgrimage, he added.
Iraqi pedestrians and motorists started using the freshly graded road immediately after the improvements were finished.
"It may not seem like much," Bahm said. "But we fixed three miles on this road and provided an easier means of travel for the Iraqi citizens."
(Army Pfc. Bethany L. Little serves with the 172nd Infantry Brigade.)