Wednesday, September 17, 2008

“Rhinos” use heavy equipment for bridge construction

HABBANIYAH, Iraq – Heavy equipment operators and mechanics from Marine Wing Support Squadron 374, Marine Wing Support Group 37, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward), assisted in assembling a Mabey-Johnson float bridge over the Euphrates River here Aug. 14 - 22.

The Marines brought their bulldozers and graters to assist Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, known as Seabees, in clearing approximately four acres of land and filling the future site of the bridge’s access road and ramp with more than 30,000 cubic yards of dirt, explained Staff Sgt. Robert Leatherman, the heavy equipment operations chief with MWSS-374.

For eight days, a team of nine Marines went to the work site at daybreak. The Marines worked 10 hours a day in 100-degree temperatures to make sure the project stayed on schedule.

“The job the Marines and sailors were tasked with is important because without this ramp, vehicles won’t be able to enter or exit the bridge,” said Leatherman. “We had a lot of dirt to move and couldn’t slow down.”

A Mabey-Johnson bridge is a pre-fabricated structure comprised of sections that float on pontoons. Construction crews float the bridge sections onto the river, line them up and weld them together. Each supporting pontoon is anchored to the riverbed to help ensure the sections remain aligned. The bridge is designed to go up quickly without the requirement of the permanent foundation pilings required of more traditional bridges.

Currently units who cross the Euphrates at the bridge site must raft vehicles and equipment across the water or travel more than 45-minutes out of their way to cross the waterway.

Once completed, the bridge will reduce travel times for Coalition and Iraqi forces using the supply route in the area, explained Army Capt. Michael Hardy, commanding officer of the 341st Engineer Company.

The bridge will provide a long-term solution for convoys following the supply route. It is schedule for completion later this month.

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