American Forces Press Service
Feb. 12, 2009 - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Mississippi National Guard unit are clearing the way to a safer and more self-sufficient Iraq -- one at sea and the other on land. In Basra province, the Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division is slated to begin construction next month of a $53 million pier and seawall in Umm Qasr.
The state-of-the-art berthing facility for the Iraqi navy will support patrol vessels charged with securing the vital port infrastructure and seaways in Iraq's territorial waters, officials said.
The project will support the fleet charged with protecting Iraq's oil infrastructure, which is critical to the nation's economic growth and development, Army Col. Jack Drolet, from the Gulf Region South district, said.
"This project is of strategic importance in protecting Iraq's oil platforms, and it is also important to [Iraq's Defense Ministry] and all of Iraq," Iraqi Rear Adm. Jawad Kadhum, head of the Iraqi navy, said. "It will also help the people of Basra, specifically Umm Qasr, as construction will bring jobs and business to the local area."
The construction marks the first Foreign Military Sales project between Iraq and the Corps, officials said. FMS is a program in which the host country pays the U.S. government for construction and supplies related to its military.
"This is an excellent example of the Iraqis taking the lead, and the dramatic transition taking place in Iraq right now," Army Maj. Gen. Michael R. Eyre, commanding general of the Gulf Region Division, said.
Construction will begin in March and is slated for completion in September.
As the Corps clears the path to a stronger Iraqi navy in Basra, Mississippi engineers are clearing the streets in Baghdad.
The 1st Cavalry Division's 890th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, a National Guard unit from Gulfport, Miss., has teamed up with the 46th Engineer Battalion for a series of route-sanitation missions.
"Route sanitation is integral to our mission as a whole. It is the primary objective of the 890th to remove opportunities for enemy exploitation," Army Maj. Rick Weaver, the battalion's operations officer, said. "We have been successful in the area by removing threats and the conditions that favor [improvised explosive device] emplacement."
While route clearance removes the explosive device threat, route sanitation -- the cleaning of rubbish from streets and medians -- helps remove material that can be used to conceal roadside bombs. Both activities lessen the effectiveness of terrorists in Baghdad and improve the conditions of Iraqi communities, officials said.
To date, the engineer battalion has directed and overseen 72 successful route-sanitation missions on Baghdad streets, Weaver said.
"Our efforts can be seen all over the Baghdad area. Everyone benefits from the combined missions that our battalion directs," he said.
(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases. Nicole Dalrymple of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region Division and Army Sgt. Catherine Graham of the 890th Engineer Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, contributed to this article.)