USAREUR Public Affairs
July 21, 2003
V Corps engineers patrol river
in Saddam’s hometown
Story and photos by Jayme Loppnow, 130th Engineer Brigade Public Affairs
Pfc. Laura Stembridge of V Corps 502nd Engineer Company, 565th Engineer Battalion, keeps a close eye on the banks of the Tigris River in Tikrit. The company has run round-the-clock river patrols since the battalion’s arrival in Saddam Husseins hometown in April.
TIKRIT, Iraq — While combat has wound down in Iraq, the threat to soldiers in this unstable nation is still very real. Which is why V Corpss 502nd Engineer Company, 565th Engineer Battalion, continues to patrol the Tigris River here in the hometown of Saddam Hussein.
The company, along with the 814th Eng. Co. from Fort Polk, La., patrols the river 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to keep the approximately 2,000 soldiers deployed to Camp Iron Horse safe from enemy attacks along the river.
Recent attacks on a 556-meter floating bridge near the 565th headquarters, which was built as a temporary replacement for a bomb-damaged fixed bridge, make patrolling the river a vital mission for the 502nd. To add to the irony of having U.S. soldiers on patrol here, the bridge was constructed by the battalion April 28 — Saddams birthday — and was named the Birthday Bridge.
The 502nd patrols the area 2 kilometers north of the bridge and the 814th patrols the waters to the south.
In the grand scheme of things I think its more of a presence for us, being on the river and showing that we have control of the area, said Lt. Col. Richard Hornack, the former commander of the 565th. Weve done over 1,000 patrols, but weve never detained anybody. Weve never confiscated any contraband or anything like that. But its because we are doing river patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Soldiers of V Corps 502nd Engineer Company, 565th Engineer Battalion, patrol the Tigris River in Tikrit, Iraq 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
When they hear our motors, hopefully that will deter them from anything, said 2nd Lt. Sharon Edens.
The soldiers look for signs of enemy activity, such as loud music at odd hours, and flares, which can pinpoint the locations of troops, said Edens.
The routes and times of the patrols vary to eliminate any predictability.
We dont do the same thing twice, said Hornack. We dont want to become predictable, because as soon as you do, the enemy will track you down and plan an ambush.
Each boat carries an operator, a crew chief, and two soldiers for security, along with an AT-4 antitank weapon, an M-249 5.5-mm machine gun and three M-16 assault rifles.
Pvt.2 Joshua Gauthier, who is part of the patrol team, says the mission is necessary for the safety of the soldiers deployed to the camp.
Due to the recent mortar attacks, the patrols make all the difference, he said.
The 502nd will continue the river patrols for now, said Hornack.
Well do it as long as we here, he said.