46th Engineers strengthen prison, mission
February 25, 2009
BAGHDAD - The Theater Internment Reconciliation Center under construction at Camp Taji is a new detainee facility that needs work. The Government of Iraq asked the Multi National Division-Baghdad military police that operate the facility to strengthen the holding cells, so the MPs called in the engineers to do a 'little welding.'
"It was more than a little job," said Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Thibodeau, the senior enlisted advisor of the 46th Engineer Battalion Combat Heavy, from Fort Polk, La.
"It's a lot of work in a short amount of time with limited supplies," said Capt. Jon Berry, the facilities contract construction managing engineer for the TIRC from the 508th Military Police Battalion from Fort Lewis, Wash.
The 46th Eng. Bn. sent three engineers to live and work in Taji. The Soldiers received a welding class when they arrived, but hard work and on-the-job training was all the engineers needed to complete welding five cells in just four days.
"They're expanding their skill set in a nontraditional manner," said Lt. Col. Matthew Zajac, commander of the 46th Eng. Bn. "It's a value added."
Their mission is to provide a second barrier for the roof and add outer protection to the cell walls inside the already heavily fortified TIRC, said Sgt. William Coburn, the only school-trained metal worker and welder on the project from the 46th Eng. Bn. Coburn and about 15 Sailors, assigned as engineers from Camp Taji, helped train the Army engineers for the project.
"I prepped the others and they picked it up like it was second nature," said Coburn, from Charleston, S.C. "We've gotten thumbs up from the MP lieutenant colonel, and Navy leadership also said, 'good job and continue doing the good work.'"
"We've got a good working relationship with the Navy guys as far as getting the job done," continued Coburn. "We all put our hands in and everybody's got a chance to put a bead down, to cut and to pre-fab work."
Prefabricating the metal by staging and preparing it, welding metal beads onto the rebar and cutting steel pieces are what these troops are learning how to do with precision.
"Our mission is so technical if you don't penetrate a bead right, it'll bring down the whole shop; down the whole building; down the whole battalion," reflected Coburn as he smiled; confidant in his work and the work of the other MND-B engineers.
"Progress is steady and hopefully we'll make mission in the near future, because it's all about the mission."
According to the troops, acquiring these new skill sets make them stronger assets to the team, to the unit, to the mission and will make a stronger facility for the GoI.