Outside the Wire

By Cpt. Talon Published - July 26, 2004

 

   

SPC Louise Holfert draws a crowd of young boys on a mission to An Nasiriyah.

Photo by MSG Doug Kinsman

SPC Louise Holfert draws a crowd of young boys on a mission to An Nasiriyah.  The Design Section of the 115th EN GP was inspecting  a local contractors work on a primary school.  SPC Holfert was assigned commuication specialist and secuirty for this mission.  Many of the young boys stood in line to have SPC Holfert sign her name.  

      Tallil AFB, Iraq – Early one hot summer morning in Southern Iraq, two up armored HHMWVs were being prepared for a mission "outside the wire."  Water and extra fuel were loaded as well as the Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) and M2, or .50 caliber machine gun, the weapon of choice.  It is favored for its firepower and the presence it will have while the Design Section inspection team conducts its mission of the day, surveying a local Iraqi police station for plans to improve its defenses.  “The Iraqi police want to do a good job but they need our support to make it happen,” explained Colonel Willis, the 115th Group Commander. The design team assembling that day, supervised by Master Sergeant Kinsman, has already been on over 25 missions outside the wire in the four months they have been in Iraq.  The rest of the soldiers assigned to provide security have been outside the wire several times each as well.  While it is not a tired routine, it is familiar and things moved smoothly and efficiently.  The operations order was given and rehearsals began, next to the company area.

            The 115th Engineer Group assumed operations in an area woefully understaffed for the engineer missions that needed to be completed.  Since arriving, the unit has completed over fifty assigned missions, including: improvements to Safwan bypass, the main artery for traffic between Kuwait and Iraq, survey work to initiate repair of the entire water distribution network in the city of An Nasiriyah, a town of over 250,000 people, several projects to repair and harden Iraqi police stations, as well as inspection construction work at dozens of schools in An Nasiriyah and the towns of Suyk Ash Shuyek and Al-Batha.  “It’s good for winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people when they see us improve the infrastructure by re-building schools and other buildings.   They see Americans getting things done to help them and it brings stability to the area,” explained Design team leader, Captain Carlson.

            The 115th Engineer Group’s main project is to over see the completion of Highway 1 from the Kuwait border to Baghdad.  When we arrived in theater there was 80 kilometers (about 50 miles) unpaved. Currently military and civilian traffic braves the rough and dusty dirt roadway to get north.   Our goal is that half of the six lane roadway will be paved and ready for traffic when we redeploy.  This involves getting asphalt plants back into operation as well as securing raw materials to assist the Iraqi contractors that have the job.

Colonel Willis, CSM Cardon and Major Ali, chief of police of the Dhi Qar province Highway Patrol.  An award ceremony was held on July 2, 2004 to honor Major Ali's officers that have served with courage and distinction during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Photo by Maj. Miller

Colonel Willis, CSM Cardon and Major Ali, chief of police of the Dhi Qar province Highway Patrol.  An award ceremony was held on July 2, 2004 to honor Major Ali's officers that have served with courage and distinction during Operation Iraqi Freedom.    

The 115th Group has also been responsible for significant projects on an Airbase.  They have completed survey work for living area improvements and drainage, defense plans to harden existing buildings, road improvements and Morale Welfare and Recreation (MWR) projects, like a baseball field.  Of the work, Specialist Hammond observed, “We are definitely making a difference for our base, for the next group of people coming in.”  The largest project so far has been a 12-acre bridge park.  The bridge park is a storage and maintenance yard which will house a stockpile of parts and equipment.  The 115th Engineer Group has been tasked to oversee the bridging assets assigned to keep Hwy 1 open.  First Lieutenant Boucher, supervising the project explained, “It’s a huge project and besides designing it we have had to do significant quality control on the work because we don’t want equipment bogging down when it’s needed.”   

The missions of the 115th Engineer Group have required soldiers to travel throughout Iraq including Mosul, Ribiyah, Baghdad, Safawan and An Nasiriyah.  In An Nasiriyah, engineer teams constantly pass the hospital where Jessica Lynch was rescued and a nearby former Saddam Hussein torture chamber destroyed by coalition bombs.  They have also driven the route of Jessica Lynch’s unit where it was ambushed by anti-coalition forces.  The area is more peaceful now but to reduce their vulnerability, soldiers still drive quickly and aggressively through the city.  One soldier who was rotating out taught the soldiers of the 115th about how to operate HMMWVs, “You have to drive it like you stole it.”

Chief Warrant Officer Four (CW4) Francom, who has worked closely with the Iraqis in reconstruction efforts observed, “In the ‘war on terror’ there are many battles.  The battle that the 115th Engineer Group is engaged in, focuses on improving the oppressed and impoverished conditions that the Iraqi people have lived under for so long, and helping them to gain trust and confidence in their leaders and themselves.  We assume the risk of being in harm’s way for the greater reward of providing increased opportunities for the people of Iraq, to look past their day to day existence towards a brighter tomorrow.”