Photo Information

AL TAQADDUM, Iraq - Lance Cpls. Andres Valez, left, and Arturo Gonzales install a light underneath an awning that Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371's Engineer Operations Company built at Ammo Supply Point 102, Aug. 9. The ASP, located outside Habbiniyah, is manned by soldiers from the Iraqi Army's 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division. Valez is an electrical engineer and Gonzales is a combat engineer.

Photo by Cpl. Zachary Dyer

Engineers make life easier for Iraqi Army soldiers

28 Aug 2007 | Cpl. Zachary Dyer

Operation Iraqi Freedom has given control of the country back to its people. As more Iraqi Army units become responsible for their own areas of operation, the Marines working alongside them are doing everything in their power to set the Iraqi Army up for success.

Recently, Marines from the Engineer Operations Company of Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 spent a week improving the quality of life for Iraqi soldiers by helping the Iraqi Army’s 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Army Division, improve the conditions at Ammo Supply Point 102, an Iraqi Army outpost near Habbaniyah.

“It’s been awesome,” said 2nd Lt. Christopher Kim, the construction officer-in-charge for MWSS-371. “It got the Marines out here and gave them a little taste of helping out the Iraqis. Whatever we can do to help the Iraqi people, we’ll do it.”

The group of Marines had several goals to accomplish during their time at the ASP, according to Kim, a Centerville, Va., native.

“Our three missions out here were to redo the entry control point, build an observation post down by the river to protect the dam and the bridge, and to build the maintenance awning for the Iraqi’s motor vehicles,” explained Kim.

The Marines worked around the clock to accomplish the mission, which helped with the early completion of the project.

“The first day we got up about 2 a.m. and worked until about 11 p.m.,” said Kim. “Every day after that it’s been pretty much work all morning, get out of the sun in the afternoon, and then get back out and work in the late afternoon once the sun goes down. Everybody has been busting their butts. We slated the project to take nine days, but we’re going to finish in seven.”

The improvements made to the ASP by the Marines of MWSS-271 have made it easier for the soldiers of the battalion to operate efficiently, according to Capt. Matthew Kessler, the battalion logistics advisor with the Military Transition Team that lives and works with the Iraqi battalion.

“It seems simple to allow their mechanics to work on their vehicles out of the sun,” said Kessler, a Kings Park, N.Y., native. “When you do it in the sun, the wrench becomes 120 degrees and you can’t hold it, and all the metal pieces are too hot to work on, except at night. But at night, when you don’t have any lights it’s very hard to repair vehicles. So this awning should provide the shade to keep things a little cooler, and the lights will help them work at night.”

While the new maintenance awning relieves some of the stresses on Iraqi mechanics, the new ECP and improved observation post allow the Iraqi soldiers to operate safely. The ECP, with its new Hesco barriers and concertina wire, provides a better standoff between the Iraqis and any potential enemy, while the observation post allows the soldiers to keep an eye on a critical dam and bridge in the area, according to Kessler.

The Iraqi soldiers were thankful for the efforts the Marines had put into improving the ASP and enjoyed hosting the Marines at the ASP for a week, according to Kessler.

“Mainly they’re just thankful that they got a better OP, a great front gate, and a new place to work on vehicles,” said Kessler. “They’re very appreciative, very thankful.”

The improvements to the ASP and the newfound friendship between the Marines and the Iraqis are not the only good things to come out of the construction project, according to Kessler.

“Just coming out here and working with the Iraqi army, being able to interact with them was a good thing,” explained Kessler. “Showing them that we are their partners, and that not just MITT teams, but Marines from other bases are willing to come out here, live in austere conditions, and build something for them. It shows them ‘Hey we want you to be better,’ and we’re willing to not only pay the price for the materials, but put in the effort and take the risks. I think just showing them that, if I had to pick one, is the biggest benefit.”

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