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Al Anbar Seabees Conduct Critical Bridge Repair in Iraq

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070816-11
Release Date: 8/16/2007 11:22:00 AM

By Lt. Ivan Cavenall, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 28 Public Affairs

AL ANBAR PROVINCE, Iraq (NNS) -- Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 28 completed construction repairs on a bridge, Aug. 4, which had been severely damaged by an Improvised Explosive Device and was unable to sustain traffic.

On July 29, under the glaring Fallujah sun, a team of 12 NMCB 28 Seabees loaded up 90 tons of material and gear on seven tractor-trailers and headed out to repair the bridge, which was essential to military travel and mission completion.

“With temperatures hovering around 120 degrees in the shade and a surface temperature of the bridge itself over 200 degrees, the need to get the job completed as soon as possible was paramount,” said Steelworker 1st Class Cameron Martin, who as the lead steel worker brought a lot of experience to the project. He explained that a mock-up completed in Camp Fallujah prior to departing to repair the bridge saved the team several days under harsh conditions.

Preparation for the job started as a collaborated effort between NMCB 28 and the 30th Naval Construction Regiment (30 NCR).

“The team and the plan were superb by all measures,” said Lt. Cmdr. Gordon Meeks, 30 NCR’s operation’s officer. “The tasking was accepted and the risks mitigated through deliberate Operational Risk Management, and the planning included equipment rehearsals and a confirmation brief. The execution was flawless and the unforeseen site conditions were addressed with higher in an expeditious manner.”

The damaged bridge is a Mabey Johnson bridge and is not designed to be taken apart while in place, according to Martin. As a result, several tools had to be designed and manufactured prior to the team stepping off.

Considerable attention had to be given to safety, as the work performed was about 80 feet over a river.

Since NMCB 28 is a reserve battalion, they were able to tap into a wealth of professional knowledge of civilian ironworkers, welders and crane operators. Martin explained that without their expertise, the job would have taken twice as long, with a greater risk of injury.

The job was completed in seven days but it was scheduled to take from 10 to 20 days.

NMCB 28 provided its own security for the project, a Convoy Security Element (CSE) commanded by Senior Chief Boatswain's Mate Andy Gray. Augmented by two Bradley assault vehicles, the CSE team escorted the workers to and from the job site around the clock while the repairs took place.

The bridge repair team began by performing an inventory of parts that were scattered throughout the Al Anbar province of Iraq and a mock-up at Camp Fallujah to go over the team’s steps and safety procedures that would be executed during the actual repair job. This was a very critical and practical part of the plan - giving the crew a good idea of issues or situations that they could face during actual repair operations.

The repairs included removing two 30-four foot transom beams from the west side of the bridge and replacing them with two 32-foot transom beams which are used to transfer weight and support traffic across the bridge.

The team also had to remove deckplating, which sits on top of the transom beams and is what the vehicle wheels actually contact, the surface or “road” of the bridge. Each piece that was removed to gain access to the transoms weighed more than 400 pounds.

NMCB 28’s Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Craig Scharton, was proud of the job his Seabees performed.

“This project exemplifies how our Seabees came together from disparate parts of the command blended together as a team and utilized their talents to successfully accomplish the mission at hand,” said Scharton. “I couldn’t be happier with this team on their performance.”

NMCB 28 is part of more than 1,100 Sailors and Marines supporting critical construction efforts in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.

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