Engineers in Iraq

 

Written by 1st LT. Randy Miller

Published March 28, 2004

   

Two Engineer soldiers taking a break between their reconstruction projects to indulge their vice.
Photo Courtesy of Utah National Guard

 

Two Engineer soldiers taking a break between their reconstruction projects to indulge their vice. 

     The 116th Engineers touched down in Kuwait in early February, 2004. We have since traveled to Iraq. This past month has been filled with earthwork and grading operations in support of the LSA we are stationed at.

     Our typical missions are usually grade, gravel, and compact, but we've also been tasked with missions to haul asphalt and gravel. We have been tasked to collapse and fill in some substandard fighting positions built by Iraqis. I for sure would not get in them during calm or firestorm. They have very little strength in the roofs. We have probably used our equipment to fill in about a dozen of them of different sizes during the last few weeks.

     The operators have to keep on their toes. In general terms only I can tell you that while the threat is minimal, terrorist insurgents try not to let coalition forces forget that they are in town and intend to inflict harm. The 116th has sustained no WIA to date, but has had a couple of close calls from inside the base. 2nd Platoon exposed an object resembling a land mine that was probably a dud based on the large amount of traffic that had passed over the location in the last year. This is a captured Iraqi airfield, so finding a land mine will probably be the exception rather than the rule.

     A few words about soldier life: KBR does our laundry once a week. They do a very nice job of it too. They take care of the five mess halls. Our cooks supervise the preparation and handling of the food. Thank heavens for KBR, no matter what the press says about any real or perceived impropriety. I can't think there are very many organizations qualified and willing to provide the services they do in this dangerous and austere environment. The terrorists target KBR, AAFES, Iraqi security personnel, and Iraqi civilians regularly.

Two soldiers pulling guard duty within the Units operation area.
Photo Courtesy of Utah National Guard

 

Two soldiers pulling guard duty within
the units operation area.
 

    Accommodations are very nice, relatively speaking. Three hot meals a day, and we live in a building with concrete walls and concrete roof complete with air conditioning. Things are getting better too. There is a PX and some local national vendors selling everything from cigars to fine jewelry to fine rugs. I mean very fine rugs. One was about 0.6m x 1m, made of pure silk, and cost about $2,500 USD.

     Most of the roads on the installation are paved, and thanks to the Engineers, the majority of motor pools will soon have plenty of gravel covering their floors.

    From our building I can look out across the motor pool and beyond across the wire to see palm trees lining the banks of the Tigris River. Everything outside the wire looks green and plush and inviting. Inside the wire, things look just about like any other military installation.  
We have a nice population of colorful little birds around,
too. The Iraqi children and parents working the farm fields outside the wire are usually pretty friendly and often are the first to offer a friendly wave. Not always, but that usually is the case.

     I saw a boy this morning running along the fence to get a good look at our smooth roller. I guess tanks and Bradleys and APCs have grown routine, and he was curious about what kind of gizmo was rolling down the road.

Thanks,

1st Lt. Randy Miller
XO 116 EN CSE
Spanish Fork, UT