April 28, 2008 —
KARMA, Iraq (Aprl 28, 2008) – The small Iraqi city street clamored with singing, dancing and rejoicing. It was a time of celebration.
Marines of 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1 and local Iraqi security forces and community officials celebrated the opening of al-Tareq Ela al-Salaam, which translates to “The Road to Peace,” here, April 14.
Karma Mayor Kamal Abd Al Salam Abd Al Wahid, spoke to the crowd of people including local Iraqi security forces, Iraqi government officials, and Marines.
Sheikh Mishan, the preeminent sheikh in the area, then blessed the road as the Iraqi police moved the barriers that have been there for approximately three years.
“Due to the (observation post) being so close to the road, in the past there was a great threat of (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices) and (suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices),” said Capt. Phil Dykeman, commanding officer, Company F, 2nd Bn, 3rd Marines. “The road needed to be closed to protect the Marines that lived and operated out of OP Omar.”
In order to reopen the road to the local population, the situation in the area had to be stable enough so the risk was minimal, and combat engineers had to make new entry control points so Marines could enter and exit the observation post in a way that was safe for both service members and local Iraqis.
Engineers attached to 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines, worked tirelessly day and night to make sure that the opening of the road would go off without a hitch.
“Opening (the road) wasn’t as easy as you would think,” said 2nd Lt. Kevin Ritchie, platoon commander, Engineer Platoon, Headquarters and Service Company, 2nd Bn., 3rd Marines.
“We made countless round trips delivering dirt and gravel. It took about a week to build new posts and reorganize the barrier structure. The platoon was up there until the day prior making sure everything was in place. We also received help from (Combat Logistics Battalion 1) and (Combat Engineer Battalion, RCT-1). They loaned us personnel and equipment, and Trucks Platoon lent us drivers and vehicles to help us get this accomplished. It was a lot of organizations coming together to help get this done,” said Ritchie.
With the mission in Iraq now focused on turning the country over to the Iraqis, the reopening of the road is just one of the many steps to return life back to normalcy and bring stability to the region.
“We’re at the point where our convoys can pass alongside civilian traffic on (the road),” Ritchie, a native of Worcester, Mass., said. “Now the local civilians can drive through Karma like anywhere else without taking a long detour. It’s good to see that kind of consistency.”
This project was a main priority for both the local Iraqi government and the battalion.
When the road was closed, local Iraqis were forced to take a detour that was narrow and dangerous for large vehicles and added more time for them to get to their destination, Dykeman said, and the Iraqis were happy that it was opened up to them.
“The Iraqis were very happy that the road is open,” said the native of Central Square, N.Y. “There was music and dancing. The first vehicle through the road was an Iraqi Police vehicle, which is symbolic since they are instrumental in the security.”
The Island Warriors and ISF are working side-by-side on a daily basis in order to bring stability back to the region. This is all part of the mission the Marines are charged with during their deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.