Local shaykhs and an Iraqi Soldier discuss the future of the area after a bridge reopening ceremony in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Jan. 18, 2009. The bridge crosses the Salty River, joining two halves of the Mamour Tribe. Photo by Spc. Jamie Vernon, 1st Armored Division.
— Leaders from the Iraqi Army, local shaykhs and Multi-National Division – Baghdad Soldiers participated in a bridge reopening ceremony in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Jan. 18.
The improvement in security and reduction in sectarian violence made it possible to reopen the bridge which had separated a tribal community. The reopening also returns the area to a sense of normalcy.
Iraqi Col. Rasheed, commander of the 55th Brigade, 17th Iraqi Army Division, discussed with local shaykhs how important the bridge over the Salty River is and how its opening is another step to improving the Mahmudiyah region.
“This is one of the good things we are doing in the area. There will be more coming, including water purification and road paving. This will alleviate the suffering of the people,” he said.
The Mamour tribe occupies much of the area on both sides of the bridge and was split when the bridge closed. Relatives had to drive many kilometers east or west of the bridge to find another way across. Now, a more direct route is available to visit their families. Children who traveled a long distance to receive their education now only have a short bridge to cross on school days.
“This is one of the biggest things we can do as Coalition forces to get life back together for the Mamour Tribe,” said Capt. Gregory Martens, a company executive officer with Multi-National Division – Baghdad.
The bridge was shut down for an extended period of time due to an insurgent attack on Coalition forces.
Rasheed and the shaykhs spoke of how the Iraqi Army will be responsible for providing security for the bridge and of how improved security will benefit the Iraqis living on both sides of the Salty River.
“The bridge opening today symbolizes the barriers we all work together to break down, each towards a brighter future for Iraq,” said Maj. Eric Savickas, a battalion executive officer with MND-B.
(By Spc. Jamie Vernon, 1st Armored Division)