By Army 1st Lt. Marvin Nelson
Special to American Forces Press Service
April 8, 2009 - Things are back in full swing these days on the outskirts of Salmak Pak in the southeastern part of the Iraqi capital. One month after soldiers from the earth-moving platoon of Company A, 46th Engineer Combat Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade, and security elements from the 1st Armored Division's 2-6th Infantry and the 6th Iraqi Army Division worked together to complete an eight-day mission, the streets are free of old fighting positions and the concrete barriers that dotted the landscape.
"The work that was conducted out here a month ago has definitely improved the living conditions for everyone in this area," Army Capt. Jeremy North, the 2-6th Infantry Task Force engineer, said. "The local Iraqi people can once again easily access the local businesses and resources, and coalition forces now have increased mobility, enhancing their ability to quickly respond to threats in the area. I believe the Iraqis are excited about having their town look like a town again."
The engineers removed barriers and bastions used to shield against blasts or small-arms fire. Along with the usual equipment of loaders and 20-ton dump trucks, the engineers also deployed two cranes to move concrete walls, bunkers, and jersey barriers for possible future use elsewhere. The soldiers removed almost 200 jersey barriers, 40 other concrete wall sections and two bunkers. U.S. engineers used two cranes and a five-yard loader to place the walls on tractors and trailers.
"The mission was an all-around endeavor by both Iraqi and U.S. soldiers," Army Staff Sgt. Lawrence R.J. Willeford, noncommissioned officer in charge of the earth-moving platoon, said. "Together, we moved and removed hundreds of walls and barriers to open up parking lots to businesses and access to the elementary school."
U.S. and Iraqi troops worked overnight until dawn to remove concertina wire and countless tons of materials. Willeford said he hoped their efforts demonstrate a return to normalcy for local Iraqis.
The work accomplished along the route was an important step for both coalition and Iraqi forces in signifying that conditions in Iraq have steadily improved, officials said. With the overall violence in Baghdad down nearly 70 percent, fighting positions set along the route were no longer necessary. With the majority of the walls and barriers removed, traffic along the route has improved, helping the area to prosper.. The route-sanitation mission not only improved traffic flow along the route, but also made it difficult for insurgents to plant roadside bombs.
Checkpoints that were not removed along the route were reduced in size, but improved in total protection stature. The engineers also removed barriers from schools and businesses to make them more accessible.
(Army 1st Lt. Marvin Nelson serves in Multinational Division Baghdad with the 46th Engineer Combat Battalion, 225th Engineer Brigade.)