ZUBAYDIYAH Iraq - The 1437th MRBC (Multi-Role Bridge Company) of Sault Ste. Marie, MI, working jointly with the First Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group and the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 (Seabees) have successfully completed one of the biggest projects of its' kind since World War II. The 1437th lent their experience and equipment in floating bridge building to construct a 762 foot Mabey-Johnson bridge across the Tigris River at Zubaydiyah. This is the longest floating span ever to be built in Iraq by military engineers. The Mabey-Johnson bridge is a new type of bridge used by the US forces. To assist with technical information, a representative of the Mabey & Johnson Ltd Company of England was onsite throughout the build. Along with the 1437th MRBC, Marine Engineer Group, and Seabees; the project was assisted by a Diving Section, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Naval Construction Support Team 2, Amphibious construction Battalion 1 and Amphibious Construction Battalion 2.
This bridge was built to replace the original bridge across the Tigris River at Zubaydiyah. The original bridge was destroyed by coalition forces to deny its' use by Iraqi forces. Though the original bridge wasn't critical to coalition forces' movement towards Baghdad during the war, it was necessary to replace it to restore a major transportation route used by both civilians and Coalition forces. The project took two weeks to complete, and was opened on June 28, 2003 as many local and military dignitaries looked on.
The bridge consists of six sections linked together; two 40-meter sections anchored at either bank, with four 33-meter sections pinned and welded in the middle. Total weight of the bridge upon completion is 490 tons. The bridge sections sit atop 100 meter long pontoons which were then anchored to the river bottom through a kedge anchor system. The kedge anchors, 20 in all, each weigh 500 pounds and are designed to dig deeper into the river bottom the faster the current, thus stabilizing the bridge's position.
The 1437th MRBC utilized many of its' skilled boat operators throughout the project to place the pontoons in position for pinning and welding, and holding the bridge in place until the anchor system was complete. "For many of the troopers, this bridge validates our whole deployment to Iraq" said Captain Edward Hallenbeck, Company Commander 1437th MRBC. "Getting our boats wet after hauling them all over Kuwait and Iraq brought a smile to the men's and women's faces." 1st Sgt. Michael Jago stated, "The current was very swift and it took all of our skill to keep the bridge steady." Steadying the pontoons to get the separate bridge decking in place was the critical part of the job as it turned out. "If anchoring didn't go well, the bridge wouldn't be here," according to Navy Lt.j.g. David M Minnick, Jr, a boatswain for Amphibious Construction Battalion 1. "This thing snaked," said Petty Officer 1st Class Hippolito Quiles, builder Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 (NMCB7), "and the Army guys had to keep adjusting their boats so we could drop the anchors."
In addition to holding and transporting the pontoons, the 1437th also ferried construction equipment back and forth across the Tigris River to facilitate the construction of the far shore bridge head. Another mission the unit was able to perform was a joint mission with marines from the First Marine Expeditionary Force. With marines on the 28 foot powerboats, the units provide river reconnaissance and security for the bridge project. This diligence allowed the bridge crews to work without being fired upon and no hostile incidences were noted at this site. Together, they also transported Iraqi Prisoners of War To POW containment areas.
The last bridges built by the Sault Unit in combat were Treadway bridges built by the 1437th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company during the Korean War across the Pukkhan and Humsong Rivers. One of these bridges was built within 800 yards of combat between the ROK and North Korean troops. Awards for their time in Korea include a Presidential Unit citation.
The 1437th MRBC was mobilized from the 107th Engineers in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2003, through July 2003. Narrative by Staff Sgt. Robert Milligan, 1437th Multi-Role Bridge Company Unit Public Affairs Representative.