By 2nd Lt. Mark Ver BurgOctober 26, 2010
BASRA, Iraq - Combat engineers with the 3rd Advise and Assist Brigade, 4th Infantry Division recently worked with a specialized engineer reconnaissance team from the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the safety of Rumaila Bridge in Basra Province.
When the United States Division-South and 1st Infantry Division determined the bridge required inspection, they looked to Basra's only engineer company: Company E, 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3rd AAB, 4th Inf. Div.
The northern portion of the Rumaila oil field produces a significant share of the country's oil. Rumaila's vast area, which is spotted with oil refineries and pipelines, is cut off in the north by a swamp, making the transportation of heavy machinery and industrial supplies necessary for ongoing oil production difficult.
There are several access points to the field from the south, but only one bridge connects the oil field's northern border to the rest of Iraq. Recently the integrity of the northern bridge has been called into question.
Company E is an engineer unit of combat engineers that has civil engineering capabilities, such as bridge reconnaissance, but its primary mission is to provide route clearance around the city of Basra.
"One challenge of back-to-back deployments is staying trained on our engineer-centric tasks," said Capt. Evan Munson, Co. E's executive officer from Glendale, Ariz. "This mission was a chance for our platoon to stretch its legs on the ground and accomplish a core engineer skill with other engineers."
USD-S provided Co. E with four civil engineering experts to survey the bridge.
At the site, the Soldiers secured both sides of the bridge to allow the bridge classification team to work safely. Iraqi Security Forces personnel who work near the bridge also offered their assistance, controlling traffic and supplementing the U.S. forces' security measures.
Sgt. Douglas Vaughan, the Colorado Springs, Colo., native who led the security element for the mission, said, "I miss getting to be on the ground and interacting with people like this."
The engineer recon team took a number of measurements and pictures from the top and underside of the bridge to determine the bridge's capacity to withstand heavy vehicles. They also looked for damage to structural elements of the bridge.
Pending the results of this reconnaissance mission, the bridge may see some repairs which will enable safer and easier access to the oil fields from the north.
(2nd Lt. Mark Ver Burg is assigned to 1st Battalion, 68th Armor Regiment, 3/4 AAB.)