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Joint force eliminates lines at Iraq gas pumps

By Staff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta

TIKRIT, Iraq (Army News Service, May 4, 2005) – New gas pumps and gas stations, repairs and increased security have now eliminated long lines at Iraqi Government gas stations in Task Force Liberty’s area of operations in central Iraq.

Begun last December, the improvements were coordinated and supervised by the 42nd Infantry Division’s Oil Team. The 42nd Infantry Division is the command and control element for Task Force Liberty, and Multi-National Division, North Central Iraq.

“Now Iraqis don’t have wait six to 12 hours to get fuel,” said Maj. Brian Paolillo, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion, who is in charge of the 42nd Infantry Division’s Oil Team.

The team is responsible for oil security and infrastructure development in Task Force Liberty’s Area of Operations, Paolillo said - coordinating $15 million worth of oil security and infrastructure projects at any one time.

This includes the recent gas station and security improvements. The team coordinated with Iraqi contractors to repair and replace existing pumps, replace tanks and build four new gas stations.

The team also coordinated with the local Iraqi government agencies to provide Iraqi police escorts for fuel tankers - protecting them from hijackers and black-marketers, and as Paolillo put it, ensuring the “tankers get from the depot to the station.”

"In addition to fueling the cars, many of these stations will also provide diesel and other fuels to meet all of the local needs," said Sgt. Brian Huckins, 411th Civil Affairs Battalion and member of the 42nd Infantry Division Oil Team.

"All of this has been possible by the different Coalition Forces working together with the Iraqis to address a need. The results are seeing people able to drive without worrying about running out of gas."

Paolillo emphasized that the improvements are ongoing.

The need for improvements was identified through the team’s ongoing dialogue with Iraqi civic leaders. These leaders reported that Iraqi citizens were blaming Coalition Forces for the lack of fuel and long lines at the pump, which is not true, Paolillo said.

“We [Coalition Forces] have our own fuel,” he said. Paolillo likened the lines to those at American gas stations in the ‘70s energy crisis and oil embargo.

Like then, Iraqi motorists were forming lines the night before to get gas for their vehicles and kerosene fuel for cooking and heating their homes.

"The long lines were at least a headache, and in many cases a major traffic hazard and an uncontrolled mess," Huckins said.

“When you drive by the stations now, you don’t see the lines there,” Paolillo said. “The wait is down to nothing.”

(Editor’s note: Staff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta serves with 42nd Infantry Division Public Affairs.)



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