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U.S., Iraqi Maritime Forces Keep Watch Over Oil Terminals on Election Day

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050131-02
Release Date: 1/31/2005 10:33:00 AM

By Journalist 1st Class Wes Eplen, Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Public Affairs

AL BASRAH OIL TERMINAL, North Arabian Gulf (NNS) -- U.S., Iraqi and coalition naval forces have been on station and on watch aboard the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminals (ABOT and KAAOT) since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, protecting key Iraqi infrastructure nodes.

U.S. forces have been aboard these terminals since April 26, 2004, when U.S. Marines arrived to enhance Iraqi security following failed terrorist attacks.

"We're providing point defense and close security for the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminals," said Lt. Cmdr. Pat Fulgham, officer in charge of Navy Maritime Security Detachment 22. "Our basic mission is to enable tankers to come and go, to allow Iraq to generate the revenue they need to stabilize their country."

There have been repeated attacks on the oil infrastructure of southern Iraq over the past year. The majority of the country's oil is pumped onto waiting tankers here each day and account for roughly 80 percent of Iraq's revenue.

"These platforms are the future for the Iraqi people," said Capt. Kurt W. Tidd, commander of the multinational task force responsible for protecting the terminals. "If there's going to be a future, it will depend on these oil platforms. Preserving them for whomever wins the elections is critical."

Coalition ships remain on station not far off the edge of the platforms. They have been maintaining a multi-layered security posture since the terminals were taken by Polish and U.S. Special Forces at the outset of Operation Iraqi Freedom. USS Harpers Ferry (LSD 49) has been on station since early September.

"This country is working to take its place in the sun, and we're very, very proud to be a part of that," said Cmdr. Burt Quintanilla II, commanding officer of USS Harpers Ferry.

Both oil terminals are under Iraqi civilian control, operated and staffed by Iraq's Southern Oil Company. U.S. and Iraqi security forces on the terminals provide the last layer of defense in case hostile vessels do manage to get past coalition maritime forces.

Southern Oil Company workers took advantage of the secure environment to board tug boats that transported them inland to the polls.

"It's a very, very great day for Iraq," said Capt. Maheed Hasim, ABOT's harbor master. "For a long, long time Iraqi people have not had this very important right. I have a feeling things will be very, very nice in the future. We have a great hope for this."

While the outcome of the elections and the political future of Iraq is yet to take shape, U.S., Iraqi and coalition maritime forces will continue to help set the conditions for security and stability and provide the Iraqis the opportunity to determine the fate of their country.

"Sometimes you forget and need to be reminded of what you're actually doing out here," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Demetrius Vaultz. "You are safeguarding the future of an entire country. It really makes you feel proud that you're doing your part to help give someone else the same freedoms that you have."

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