The Good Men Do

On April 7, Spc. Joe Roche of the 16th Engineering Battalion, 1st Armored Division, wrote us an e-mail listing the accomplishments of his unit since the war began.

Joe told me to make use of it at an appropriate time. I think that is today.

With no further ado, then, Joe’s letter:

In the next paragraph and going on a little you will see a summary of exact numbers and a general survey of what my unit, the 16th Armed Engineer Battalion, has done since arriving in Baghdad a year ago. I got this from the battalion commander, Lt. Col. John S. Kem. This information is put together by the battalion itself, so you can use this as exact….

This is a general survey of the accomplishments of one unit, the 16th Armed Engineer Battalion of the 1st Armored Division, operating in Baghdad. We have carried out raids, river patrols, cordon and search operations, traffic control points and searches and tunnel/bunker recons. Acting more in the role of infantry, we have also conducted combat operations, seized and established fixed sight security positions, numerous and constant recon patrols and well as security patrols.

Operating in Baghdad, we set up 16 forward operating bases in the city, placed barriers to protect embassies, hospitals, government buildings and major hotels. These included the Ministry of Oil, the Palestine Hotel and Sheraton Hotel. Thirty-two power substations scattered in the most dense parts of the city were extensively worked on and improved, as well as major power stations such as Taji and Al Mansour. We established 13 police stations. We also secured and re-constructed five banks in the main central banking district. We also set up the security measures and defenses at embassies such as the Turkish, Polish, Swedish and Japanese ones.

For empowering Iraqi self-governing mechanisms, we established a number of ICDC camps and conducted the training of them.

Our missions encompassed several major operations which still must remain unspecified, but were critical to major operations.

Several times we were the primary response force to major terrorist attack sites such as the United Nations compound, the Turkish Embassy, and other sites.

We removed more than 200 abandoned Iraqi military vehicles such as tanks and anti-aircraft guns, artillery guns, APCs and many other crafts. Accompanying such missions were Explosive Ordnance Disposal missions that secured the removal of 1902 tons of unexploded munitions. This involved clearing 726 sites and 190 weapons/explosives caches, sometimes well dug and concealed.

Constant and exhausting are the IED sweeps, searching for roadside bombs. This combined w/ a route clearance effort of trash removal, vegetation clearance and filling abandoned fighting positions that amounted to $73,000.

This list is huge and too long to recount in detail, but weapons cleared in such efforts included over 10,000 artillery pieces, over 4000 RPGs, around 5000 mortars, over 1200 grenades, even including large missiles, rockets and warheads. Realize that some of these items are now in use in IEDs (roadside bombs). Imagine if we had not cleared all this. As it is, we have located and neutralized 95 IEDs.

Our infrastructure missions included major bridging construction that opened up highways for Iraqi commerce and travel. Along w/ this, 24 kilometers of main roads and many more secondary roads were repaired and cleared.

In what may be the US Army’s record accomplishment for any single unit carrying out humanitarian missions, we completed 224 neighborhood projects totaling nearly $5 million. Twenty-eight primary and secondary schools were repaired, built and improved. We also completed 67 projects to construct and improve Baghdad University and Mustansariyah University, which included 7 colleges, 3 dormitories, 250 renovated rooms, and many internet and computer labs, totaling around $1.5 million. This included restoration and improvement to the Museum of Natural History.

General infrastructure projects included 23 major ones that involved everything from major repairs to establishing security at a value of $140,000. Sewage projects covered 31 major items, 19 substations and 15 vehicle trucks totaling $1.97 million. We also completed 4 major water projects at $152,000 and $94,000 of irrigation systems.

All this was accomplished by our single unit in Baghdad’s toughest areas while averaging around 285 soldiers. Many times we operated w/ units from Florida, Oregon, Utah, Puerto Rico, Kansas and Texas Reservists and National Guardsmen, as well as a couple other active army units.

We haven’t heard from Joe in over a week. He predicted he would soon be without Internet access in an e-mail about his unit’s new assignment he sent ten days ago.

We can, however, see from news reports today that some of the soldiers from the 1st Armored Division in which he serves are operating in Mahmudiyah, clearing roadside bombs.

Surely, work worth commending, even as Ted Koppel reads the names of the lost.


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