March 26, 2009

Powhatan-based Engineer Company completes busy February in Iraq

By Sgt. Charles C. Jones
180th Engineer Company

VICTORY BASE COMPLEX, Iraq — February was a busy month for the 180th Engineer Company as it finished up its second full month in Iraq. Several mission job sites were completed, with new ones already started or in the chute. Also, in February Soldiers started leaving to go home on rest and recuperation leave. More importantly, though, two big events took place for the Soldiers of the 180th: construction on their new tactical operations center and a visit by Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia.

Capt. Edward Lewis and 1st Lt. Philip Johnson provide the Virginia Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Robert Newman, with a briefing of 180th’s construction mission at Azziziyah, Iraq. (Photo by Sgt. Charles C. Jones, 180th Engineer Company)

On Feb. 18, Newman, along with Command Sgt. Maj. Carl Holcomb, the state command sergeant major, visited the Soldiers of the 180th on their tour of Iraq. After a helicopter ride over two of the mission sites that the 180th has completed, Newman’s party landed at the Azziziyah mission site to congratulate 1st Platoon on its accomplishments. After a few words there, the Adjutant General flew back to Camp Stryker to have dinner with the rest of the 180th where he commended them for the hard work they have put in since deploying.

“I am pleased as can be for the joint operations being conducted here with the 54th [Engineer Battalion],” said Newman. “I am particularly happy to see my friends in blue [Air Force] and the Navy both falling under the leadership of the Army and working side by side with each other. As for the 180th, all I hear are praises for their contribution to combat operations here in Iraq. I cannot be more proud of them as they represent the Virginia National Guard in theater.”

Second Platoon, 180th Engineer Company finished two job sites in February: a UAV landing strip at Forward Operating Base Echo and force protection barriers at Patrol Base Mahawil. Both of these job sites were add-on construction to already existing bases.

First Platoon, along with Airmen of the United States Air Force’s 732d Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron, Detachment 3, constructed a new patrol base from the ground up at Azziziyah. Starting with only a blown out barracks for the old Iraqi Republican Guard, 1st Platoon moved over 30,000 cubic yards of dirt to fill over 10,000 linear feet of Hesco baskets and graded over 2,500,000 cubic meters of gravel.

Sgt. 1st Class William Cole had much praise for his Soldiers.

“First Platoon rose to the occasion. We knew nothing of the site-fill before coming on, and were able to finish the entire project within 32 days. I couldn’t be more proud of the work of my Soldiers.”

Cole’s Soldiers put in over 1,251 man-hours to complete this mission.

Soldiers of the 180th Horizontal Construction Company grade dirt at Forward Operating Base Echo in order to prepare the ground for and unmanned aerial vehicle landing strip. The company's innovative construction techniques and attention to detail resulted in an above standard product that facilitated on-demand intelligence gathering capabilities for 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. (Photo by Sgt. Charles C. Jones, 180th Engineer Company)

On Feb. 11, concrete was poured for the foundation of the new TOC that the 180th Engineer Company will occupy. As of this writing, the trusses have been constructed and two of the outside walls have been framed. The 180th is hoping to be completely finished within the next month and settled into their new building.

The main body of the 180th Horizontal Construction Company arrived in Iraq on Dec. 18, 2008 and became the newest company under the 54th Engineer Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade.

Once up and running, 180th wasted no time in getting out and getting on job sites. Currently, the 180th is running three horizontal construction projects and has completed an airstrip for coalition forces’ unmanned aerial vehicles.

While on Victory Base Complex, the company has also provided support to other elements of the 54th Engineer Battalion, to include grading for a new motor pool and providing equipment and personnel assets for route clearance and sanitation.

Soldiers also took advantage of the training opportunities provided at VBC as well. The Mine Resistant Armor Protected MaxxPro drivers’ training, as well as the I-HMEV course, has proven to be beneficial to the unit as they fall on new pieces of equipment that the Soldiers have not used before.

Maj. Gen. Robert Newman takes some time to talk to the Soldiers of the 1st Platoon, 180th Engineer Company, during his visit to Patrol Base Azziziyah, Iraq, on Feb. 18. (Photo by Sgt. Charles C. Jones, 180th Engineer Company)

“An engineer Soldier likes to work,” said 1st Sgt. Jerry Bristow, the senior non-commissioned officer-in-charge for Blade Company. “Give us the equipment, give us the right tools, give us a mission and we will get it done.”

Both the commander and first sergeant have high praises for their Soldiers, showing both ingenuity and tenacity for the tasks set out for them. “We are doing good things!” exclaimed Capt. Edward Lewis, the company commander.

As for the living conditions at VBC, the soldiers welcome the amenities provided. Many of the Soldiers in the 180th have served in Iraq before, back in 2004, and remember an entirely different living situation. Many of the Soldiers welcome the change of pace this time around.

The 180th also re-enlisted 12 soldiers on Dec. 31, to continue their service to the U.S. Army and the Virginia Army National Guard. Their dedication to service while deployed in combat operations has been an inspiration to others who also are interested in re-enlisting.

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