FALLUJAH, Iraq --
FALLUJAH, Iraq (Aug. 19, 2008) – Iraqi Army soldiers operating in an area shared by Regimental Combat Team 1, escorted local sheiks and tribal leaders across a newly constructed bridge in the Bagharra region of Iraq, Aug. 19.
The passage marked the re-opening of the Salem Bridge, an important link in connecting local citizens with cities on the other side of the Thar Thar Canal. Insurgents had demolished the original bridge with improvised explosive devices more than a year ago, forcing locals to travel nearly five hours to cross the canal.
“Before this bridge opened, the people were suffering,” said 2nd Lt. Nasser Kazzoy, scout platoon commander with the Iraqi Army. “Now that the bridge is open, people can cross the bridge and get to the other side in five minutes.”
Bagharra, a remote area with vast open desert, is home to mostly farmers who earn their living raising crops and livestock. They depended on passage over the canal to import farming supplies and to export their harvests to nearby cities. Insurgent’s destruction of the original bridge forced many families in the area to move because of lost profits.
“When al-Qaeda came, they realized that the bridge was dangerous to them and blew it up to cut off the supply going across,” said Kazzoy. “We have been chasing al-Qaeda across this area and are working to keep the new bridge safe.”
Soldiers with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Quick Reaction Force, 1st Iraqi Division, and Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, provided security for the ceremonial walk across the bridge.
The re-construction included entry control points to allow the IA to continue security efforts near the bridge, where they will check vehicles and personnel for weapons and bomb-making material.
Marines with Military Transition Team 2 Bn.2 QRF Team1, Multi National Force-West, credited IA soldiers for their lead in the project.
“This has been an effort purely initiated by the IAs and will help stimulate the local economy and increase the quality of life for people living in the area,” said 1st Lt. Emre I. Albayrak, admin advisor, MiTT-2-2-1. “These guys are doing an amazing job keeping the area secure.”