Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New Pontoon Bridge Spans Tigris

Maj. John Cushing, from Rochester, Mich., operations officer for the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, and Capt. John Doiron, the 1-15th Inf. Regt. adjutant, walk across a new pontoon bridge March 15 before a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening it for travel between al Dura’iya and Diwaniya, Iraq. (Photo by Sgt. Natalie Rostek, 3rd HBCT, 3rd Inf. Div. PAO)

FOB Hammer, Iraq, Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Members of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team looked on as a ribbon was cut on each side of the floating bridge which joins two communities separated by the Tigris River. A pontoon bridge historically connected the communities, but was destroyed prior to the arrival of the 3rd HBCT to the area.

After the ribbons were cut, Iraqi Security Forces and citizens from both sides of the river walked to the center of the bridge and greeted each other with hand shakes and traditional Iraqi greetings.

According to Capt. Rich Thompson, commander of Company B, 1st Battalion,15th Infantry Regiment, the bridge project took 10 days to complete, most of which was preparation for the actual construction.

Thompson, a native of West Palm Beach, Fla., said after Company B Soldiers secured both sides of the river, Soldiers from the 814th Multi-Role Bridge Company and the 74th Engineer Dive Team took just eight hours to set and anchor the bridge.

Before the opening, Soldiers from Company B drove a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) and a Humvee over the bridge to test its durability.

Thompson said members of the Sons of Iraq will secure both shores of the bridge.

“People wanted the bridge to get between the Diwaniya area and the al Dura’iya area,” he said. “The bridge is their link to Salman Pak so they can transport their produce and agricultural products. They are big farming communities so this bridge really helps their economy.”

Thomson said the bridge also significantly decreases the travel time to the hospital in Salman Pak for the residents of Diwaniya.

Lt. Col. Jack Marr, from Minneapolis, commander of the 1-15th Inf. Regt., said citizens will be able to travel on the bridge during daylight hours. If someone needs to cross the bridge at night, they must have a local or tribal leader contact the battalion.

Marr sees the bridge opening as more than a means of improving mobility for local residents. In a speech before the ribbon-cutting, Marr said the bridge symbolizes a bridge built to fortify the relationships between all Iraqi citizens as well as their relationships with Coalition forces.

Col. Wayne W. Grigsby, Jr., from Prince George’s County, Md., commander of the 3rd HBCT also attended the opening.

The 3rd HBCT, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., has been deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March 2007.

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