CAMP ADDER, Iraq - The sands of southern Iraq are seeing new shapes on the horizon. Construction is underway for "castles" built and manned by Red Bull Soldiers of the Minnesota National Guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Infantry Division.

These castles are new Radio Relay Points built to consolidate U.S. Army Soldiers and resources onto larger, but fewer, bases providing radio communications between Baghdad and the Iraq-Kuwait border in the south.

"The goal was to close RRPs, and put up a bigger garrison environment to protect the Soldiers," said Maj. Michael Lins, of Savage, Minn., the BCT's engineer.

The concrete guard towers and more than 15-foot concrete walls prevent damage from all conventional attacks.

Lins, the safety director and fleet manager for Gresser Companies Inc., Minnesota's largest masonry and concrete contractor, designed the new bases drawing inspiration from fortresses of the past.

"They are very similar to how you would design a medieval castle," said Lins, a graduate of the University of Minnesota with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering.

Lins worked with Soldiers of the old RRPs to incorporate modern and ancient fighting techniques into the layout of the base. Similar to the use of catapults in the past, the structure features several fighting positions designed to drive a Humvee up into position to defend the base. The positions allow Soldiers to fire a Humvee's turret- mounted fully automatic weapons over the high walls of the base.

"The guys on the ground [at the RRPs] said, 'how can we bring vehicles into the fight''", said Lins.

The 12 former RRPs featured impromptu wood structures and small dirt barriers for protection.

The dismantling and transition of the old RRPs is being done by Soldiers from Minnesota's "Earthpigs", the Hutchinson, Minn.,-based 682nd Engineer Battalion.

"A lot of the guys are seeing the fruits of their labor," said engineer team leader Staff Sgt. Charles Heldt of Waconia, Minn.

"These guys are building the whole way through from start to finish," he said.

In addition to enhanced protection, the new bases feature many upgraded amenities including living quarters and dining facilities in trailers rather than tents.

"The new living conditions are 100 percent better, no bugs or dirt," said Heldt. "The old dining facilities were in tents, now they are in hard stand buildings with tables and chairs."

The new RRPs also provide greater emergency accommodations for Coalition Forces convoys traveling through southern Iraq. In emergency situations the bases provide the availability of medics, lodging, fuel and mechanics.

Capt. Robert Metcalfe of Pequot Lakes, Minn., the assistant operations officer for the BCT's 1-34 Brigade Troops Battalion, said these new RRPS are great for convoys that have to pull off the main supply routes because of a variety of reasons that include dust storms.

The building materials for the projects also are supported completely by local Iraqi contractors.

"It's an Iraq first program," said Metcalfe. "All contracts for the RRPs are with reputable businesses in the area."

The project of transitioning the old RRP network has also benefited Iraqi police and army units. Three of the old bases have been turned over to Iraqi security forces to enhance their capabilities.

The new bases have been a plan of the Army's for more than two years to improve the security and communications in southern Iraq.

"Our Soldiers are benefiting from this, and the following rotations for the next couple of years will benefit," said Lins.

Page last updated Tue May 1st, 2007 at 10:22