Burn baby, burn

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — "Three days ago I was putting a fire out here with a bulldozer and almost got hit by a propane tank that would have killed me if it would have hit me," said Sgt. Michael Carr, 84th Combat Engineer Battalion and landfill burn pit NCO. "If you throw a propane tank in the fire, it's going to blow up like a bomb. If people would be careful and really look and really separate their trash before they bring it out, it's going to benefit us all in the long run and keep everybody safe."

Carr and other members of the 84th EN Bn. operate the burn pit at the landfill here. They burn the accumulated refuse of more than 23,000 residents of the LSA, and keep garbage from piling up and overwhelming the landfill's capacity. During his two-week rotation at the burn pit, Carr said he had one problem he could not stress enough, that was safety; especially in the work environment of smoke and flames.

"When we're on the equipment, we put our [body armor] on. That way if something goes off, we've got some protection. As far as safety from the smoke and the fire, we have respirators and we wear protective goggles. We also have gloves, so we're well protected. Our unit got us masks that are designed so we can wear them around open flames," said Carr.

One way the unit takes care of the Soldiers is rotating them, so one group does not constantly work the burn pit.

"The project here is a community effort for the engineers sections. We're out here running it right now, we run two-week shifts. Next week we have a shift rotation, and a new group will come out and they will continue the process," Carr said. "We all know what the game plan is so, it's a combined effort from the whole engineers section in general, it's not just us."

The engineers have designed chutes, lanes similar to small canals, for holding areas of the trash. The system used to fill chutes creates recoverable land.

The Soldiers at the burn pit move the burned refuse and bury it so the land it sits on can eventually be used for something more productive, Carr said, and the process of creating productive land sites involves heavy machinery.

"The primary piece of equipment we use is a bulldozer," Carr said. "We're honing our skills on the equipment. There's constant equipment operation, so the training aspect of it is excellent."

Mostly, the job allows the crew the opportunity to work independently.

"The best part about being out here is, in a sense, it's a quiet place. We can run our operation and everything goes smoothly and it goes the way we want it to go," Carr said.

The nature of their location, a landfill with an ever-burning flame, creates an unfriendly work environment.

"The worst part about it is the dust, and it's a dirty job. We're just exhausted when we go back," Carr said.

To Carr, their effort has paid off.

"[The burn pit] is a success, it's actually quite good for the conditions we have out here. It's just a long process and once you get the materials, then you have to burn the materials; then you have to take the material and then you have to put it somewhere," Carr said. "Evidently this is actually working really [well] because we haven't had to do any kind of catch-up work or fix a situation that got out of hand where we had too much trash. We keep up with it, we keep the trash out of the post, keep the post clean and that's our main mission out here: to keep the post clean."

Editor's Note: Pfc. Trevino is assigned to the 28th Public Affairs Detachment from Fort Lewis, Wash. He is currently deployed to Iraq in support of the 13th Corps Support Command at LSA Anaconda.


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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Smoke billows in from all sides as Sgt. Richard Ganske, 84th Combat Engineer Battalion, pushes the bulldozer deep into the flames of the burn pit to keep burnable items constantly ablaze, disposing of them so they do not clutter up the post. Bulldozers and excavators are the heavy equipment used by the 84th EN Bn to manage trash at the burn pit.

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Sgt. Richard Ganske, 84th Combat Engineer Battalion uses a bulldozer to manuever refuse into the burn pit; sorting and burning it to manage LSA Anaconda’s sanitation requirements.