Bridge to the future under construction in central Iraq

Story and photos by Sgt. David A. Scott
196th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) Public Affairs

SALMAN PAK, Iraq — Soldiers with the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge), 367th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, operating under Joint Task Force Rugged and partnered with the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), initiated construction on a new bridge last month in central Iraq.

Col. Kent D. Savre, commander 36th Eng. Bde. and an Edina, Minn. native, led a tour of June 1, providing some of the first glimpses of the promising infrastructure project along the Tigris River.

The 250th MRBC is a specially trained engineer unit comprised of 180 Soldiers from the Connecticut Army National Guard.  The unit’s primary mission is to conduct water crossing and float bridge operations.

First Sgt. David Moorehead, first sergeant with the 250th MRBC, and a native of Gales Ferry, Conn., says the construction project is part of the peaceful transition of Iraqi infrastructure from military use to civilian use.

“We’re replacing a bridge formerly here; a military foot bridge,” he said. “This bridge will be turned over to the Iraqis and be able to be maintained by the Iraqis for many, many years to come.”

Bridge construction requires a special team of Soldiers to get the job done, he said.

“The combination of skill sets, from bridge builders to mechanics to equipment operators, necessary to take on a project this size, work together, and make a big difference, is special,” Mooreland said. “It takes so many people to work together to make it happen.”

The bridge under construction at Salman Pak, at about 692 feet long, is one of the largest of the five bridges the 250th MRBC has constructed since arriving in theater early this year, he said.

“This bridge supports the local economy.  As part of the agreement with the Government of Iraq, the U.S. Army is putting in a Mabey-Johnson float bridge to help sustain the economic system,” said Capt. Chuck Taylor, commander of 250th MRBC and a Hamden, Conn., native.

The specific model used at Salman Pak, the Mabey-Johnson float bridge, is a civilian design from Mabey Bridge & Shore, Inc.

A Mabey-Johnson bridge is a floating panel bridge, set on pontoons that lock together, Taylor said.

According to Mabey Bridge & Shore, Inc., the individual pontoons of the bridge are 7 feet deep, 10 feet wide and can weigh up to 40,000 pounds.

The floating pontoons are positioned one-by-one by Army bridge engineers using small Army watercraft and then filled with soil before scuttling them into their respective positions.

“The old bridge we removed, a Russian float bridge, is one the military uses and is actually a temporary bridge designed to be in for several months to support military traffic. The Mabey-Johnson bridge is more of a long-term solution,” Taylor said.

The construction of the bridge at Salman Pak is more than just physical infrastructure since it helps to build Iraqi civil governance capacity as well, he said.

“Right now I have five Iraqi field engineers here,” Taylor said. “They’ve been helping us throughout our schedule. What we’re providing them is not only a long-term bridge, but a bridge they can take care of themselves.”

Taylor said he considers his company’s construction project a worthwhile endeavor.

“Being able to put a bridge in like this to support the local population as we do a drawdown of U.S. forces is a very satisfying experience,” he said. “We see the local population on a daily basis and they travel back and forth across the river. They go into the village nearby. They sell produce. They buy produce. Being able to provide something like this, knowing it will be here for a number of years, is very satisfying.”

 

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Col. Kent D. Savre (left), commander of the 36th Engineer Brigade and an Edina, Minn. native, and Capt. Chuck Taylor, commander, 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge), 367th Engineer Battalion, 36th Eng. Bde and a Hamden, Conn. native, discuss the progress of construction of a replacement bridge June 1 near Salman Pak, Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Col. Kent D. Savre (center), commander of 36th Engineer Brigade and an Edina, Minn. native, prepares to board an Army watercraft June 1 during his inspection tour of a float bridge under construction near Salman Pak, Iraq. Construction of the project, by Joint Task Force Rugged, is a combined effort of the 36th Engineer Brigade, the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge) and the J-7 Director for Operational Plans and Joint Force Development with United States Forces — Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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An assembled section of a Mabey-Johnson float bridge is launched on a pontoon down the Tigris River June 1 during the construction of a new bridge near Salman Pak, Iraq. The pontoon carrying this span is ready to be positioned by Army watercraft from the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge), 367th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade and then filled with soil before it is sunk to hold the bridge in place. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)

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Soldiers with the 250th Engineer Company (Multi-Role Bridge), 367th Engineer Battalion, 36th Engineer Brigade, onboard an Army watercraft, prepare to move a pontoon down the Tigris River June 1 during the construction of a float bridge near Salman Pak, Iraq. The 250th MRBC is a specially trained engineer unit from the Connecticut Army National Guard conducting water crossing and float bridge operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. David A. Scott)