Sgt. Nathan Lehman works on constructing a Mabey Johnson Panel Bridge across the Tigris River near Salman Pak, Iraq, June 2. The bridge will provide a vital link to the town for area farmers to buy and sell wares.
BAGHDAD (June 20, 2010) – A group of Connecticut Army National Guard engineers is working to construct a new bridge spanning the Tigris River near Salman Pak.
As U.S. and Iraqi forces secure the area, the 250th Engineers’ Multi-Role Bridge Company, Connecticut ANG, is working night and day to construct what’s called a Mabey Johnson Panel Bridge across the storied waterway.
Capt. Chuck Taylor, commander of the 250th, is overseeing the operation. His troops are accomplishing the project by moving equipment into place during the day, and then performing the majority of construction at night to escape the sun’s heat.
Taylor explained that the bridge is important in this location because the only other way for residents to get to the town of Salman Pak is to take a three-hour detour to the next crossing.
“The Salman Pak area has really grown as far as farms and commerce,” Taylor said. “Having this bridge in place allows the residents and farmers on this shore to take their produce to town, sell their product and purchase the things that they need.”
In 2003, U.S. forces built an assault float bridge at this location. However, it was designed to be temporary and was starting to show its age, according to Taylor.
He said this area was so important to the Government of Iraq that they requested his unit’s assistance in installing a more-permanent support bridge to replace the float bridge.
“As long as it’s properly maintained, this Mabey Johnson Bridge will last on a site like this for many years to come,” said Taylor.
Pfc. Andrea Reynolds, an equipment operator with the engineers, said she is proud of the work she and her unit are doing.
“It’s amazing, watching everyone and seeing what they can do,” said Reynolds, from New Haven, Conn. “I have never seen anything like this. Watching everyone work together to make something that is going to make the local population have a better life is really rewarding.”
Members of the Iraqi Army who worked with the engineers were also impressed by the speed of the project.
“They keep working. Night and day, they just keep going,” said Pvt. Nasrat Ayad Najem, an Iraqi Soldier.
“I am very amazed with how the U.S. Soldiers are constructing the bridge, and how they are doing it so fast,” said Pvt. Aalaa Rasul Kareemn, an IA engineer. “There must be no better way to build a bridge.”