AL RIFA, Iraq -- Marines of MEU Service Support Group 24, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable), with the aid of Marines from Marine Wing Support Squadron 371 from Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, AZ., brought a Tractor Rubber-tired Articulated-steering Multi-purpose (TRAM) out to the small town of Al Rifa, Iraq to plow down berms blocking roadways and to fill fighting positions at the roadsides. This was a clear indication that combat operations in the sector were drawing to a close.
The Marines filled in several fighting positions and plowed down two berms. The fighting positions had been creating a roadside hazard - if a car drifted off the road or pulled off to the side, the hole could have easy caused it to flip over. The berms were an inconvenience to the people of Al Rifa and to the Marines trying to work in the town, as they blocked entry and exit points.
"Our mission today was to come down and clear the berms from the roads at entry and exit points so that the town people have open lines of communication and a clear way in and out," said Capt. Erik A. Post from Charleston, SC., engineer officer, MSSG-24, 24th MEU (SOC). The Machine used, a TRAM, is a front-end loader. It was used in this application in similar function to that of a bulldozer.
Gunnery Sgt. Wayne M. Osbourne from Bronx, N.Y., staff-non-commissioned-officer-in-charge, Detachment 4, 4th Civil Affairs Group, had a hand in coordinating the effort. "At one point, we went to check over the water treatment facilities and we had to drive all the way around. It would have hindered us if we had to make a hasty retreat. It was then that the idea to plow down the berm came up," said Osbourne.
The berms and fighting positions were not constructed by coalition forces. "The Iraqi Ba'ath Party, a combination of their military and militia, built the berms. They were all Iraqi positions," said Post.
Before the berms could be plowed away, the MSSG had to be sure that it was safe-- that the berms weren't packed with explosives. "Engineers from (Battalion Landing Team 2nd Bn., 2nd Marines) cleared the berms and fighting positions from any mines, (rocket propelled grenades)... any type of ordnance," said Post.
"MWSS 371 helped out. It was their TRAM. I'm just kind of here facilitating it," Post added.
This was not the first project that the MSSG was involved in to help the Iraqi people. They also did a school clean up and created a soccer field. "When we went down to clean their schools we said, 'Hey, it's your schools,' and all of the men (of the town) showed up. Soon they were pushing us out so they could do it themselves," said Post. "Helping them help themselves is what it's all about," added Post.