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1437th MRBC bridging in Iraq.

The 1437th Multirole Bridge Company (MRBC) of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, working jointly with the First Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group and the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 7 (Seabees), has completed one of the biggest projects of its kind since World War II. The 1437th MRBC lent its experience and equipment in float bridge building to construct a 762-foot long Mabey-Johnson bridge across the Tigris River at Zubaydiyah. This is the longest floating span built in Iraq by military engineers. The bridge is a new type used by U.S. forces, and a representative of Mabey and Johnson Ltd. of England was on-site to assist with technical information throughout the construction.


Along with the 1437th MRBC, the Marine engineers, and Seabees, the project was assisted by a diving section from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Naval Construction Support Team 2, Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Amphibious Construction Battalion 2.


Coalition forces had destroyed the original bridge across the Tigris River at Zubaydiyah to deny its use by Iraqi forces. Though the bridge wasn't critical to the movement of coalition forces toward Baghdad during the war, it was rebuilt to restore a major transportation route used by civilians and coalition forces. The project, which took two weeks to complete, was opened on 28 June 2003.

The 490-ton 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. The sections sit atop 100-meter-long pontoons, which were then anchored to the river bottom through a kedge anchor system consisting of 20 anchors, each weighing 500 pounds. The faster the current, the deeper the kedge anchors dig into the river bottom, stabilizing the bridge's position.

The 1437th MRBC used many of its skilled boat operators throughout the project to place the pontoons for pinning and welding and to hold the bridge in place until the anchor system was complete. The current was swift, and it took all of their skill to keep the bridge steady. Steadying the pontoons to get the separate bridge decking in place was the critical part of the job. If anchoring hadn't gone well, the bridge wouldn't have been built. Soldiers had to keep adjusting their boats so the Seabees could drop the anchors.

The 1437th also ferried construction equipment across the Tigris River to facilitate the construction of the far shore bridgehead. Another mission the unit performed with Marines from the First Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group was using 28-foot powerboats to provide river reconnaissance and security for the bridge project. This allowed the bridge crews to work without being fired upon; no hostile incidents occurred at the site.

The last bridges built in combat by the Sault Ste. Marie unit were treadway bridges across the Pukkhan and Humsong Rivers by the 1437th Engineer Treadway Bridge Company during the Korean War. One of those bridges was built within 800 yards of combat between Republic of Korea and North Korean troops.


By Sergeant First Class Robert Milligan

Sergeant First Class Milligan is the 1437th Multirole Bridge Company's mess chief. The unit was mobilized from the 107th Engineer Battalion in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2003 through July 2003.
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Author:Milligan, Robert
Publication:Engineer: The Professional Bulletin for Army Engineers
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Jan 1, 2004
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