BAGHDADI, Iraq --
In the small community of Baghdadi, service members and local Iraqis worked together to finish the Baghdadi Bridge, and a new way of crossing the Euphrates River is now open to traffic.
Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Iraqis worked together to complete the 301-meter bridge May 22, making it the longest floating bridge in Iraq, said Capt. Douglas R. Cunningham, company commander for Maintenance Company, Combat Logistics Battalion 6, 1st Marine Logistics Group.
“I didn’t think the bridge would be so big until we got all the pieces together,” said Lance Cpl. Joshua S. Hardin, metal worker, from Lawrenceburg, Ky., with Maintenance Company, CLB-6, 1st MLG. “Previously the longest bridge was only two pontoons long, this bridge is seven.”
Two Marines with Maintenance Company welded 1,600 feet of steel themselves. They worked alongside Navy Seabees and Army Engineers.
“This will cut down the six-hour convoy that it would take to go around,” said Pfc. John Z. Wilson, metal worker, from Houston, with Maintenance Company. “Convoys would have to go from Camp Al Asad up to Camp Haditha then back down.”
Hardin said they were the only two Marine welders out of seven between the different services. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 17, 1st Naval Construction Regiment, 1st Naval Construction Division, aided in the welding and assembling, as well as the Army’s 814th Engineer Company.
“It was great to have Maintenance Marines work on something like this,” said Cunningham, from Anchorage, Alaska. “Twenty years from now, they can tell their grand kids what they did in Iraq. They can be proud of something they did that will have enduring value for the Iraqis.”
With their “can do” attitude, Seabees assisted in the transportation of all the materials to the sight. They prepared the ground on both sides of the river.
“Constructing a floating bridge here as opposed to a regular sky bridge, is a lot faster, easier and it’s more durable method,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer L. Donahue, operations officer, NMCB-17.
The local Iraqis helped in whatever way they could during this project. When it was time for the 814th to maneuver the pontoons into place, they found the river grass was effecting their operations. The local sheiks saw the problem and came up with their own solution. The next morning, several small boats with locals were raking the river bottom to clear the way for the Army. Then the project could proceed.
“The (best part of this mission) was the opportunity we had to form partnerships with the Iraqis, to work with the Iraqis, and to develop something beneficiary to them,” Cunningham said. “It’s going to help them become more stable and self sufficient.”
This bridge will also benefit coalition forces in the area.
Donahue, from Midland, Texas, said she was very proud of the Seabees who were on site for 54 days working on the project.
“It’s a great contribution to know we are helping the Marines be able to cross the river,” sad Donahue. “It was all a joint effort between the Marines, Navy, Army, and the Iraqis. This would have never happened without everybody’s help.”