CAMP ADDER, Iraq - Outgoing Soldiers of Georgia's 48th Brigade Combat Team honored 26 fallen comrades with the dedication of the Lightning Memorial Range, April 14.
More than 200 troops gathered to hear their leaders speak at the range on a windy Iraqi morning.
Soldiers from the 220th Engineer Company fired a 21-gun salute as Lt. Col. Mark London, the brigade operations officer, read the names of the servicemembers who died valiantly.
Brig. Gen. Steward Rodeheaver, the commander of the 48th BCT who approved the construction of the range, told the assembled troops that the range would be valuable to future rotations.
"The main reason that I said do this, was that in order to adjust our weapons before, we had to go into the desert, set security around it â?¦ set up the range and fire the weapons," Rodeheaver said. "This way we can test our weapons here [and] our Soldiers are fully prepared to go outside and fight combat missions if they have to."
The command delegated the task of building the range to the 220th, which falls under the command of the 648th Engineer Battalion. The unit completed the project in two months despite challenges.
"One of the problems here - anywhere in Iraq really - is getting soil with enough moisture in it that you can compact it, because if it's too dry it just won't compact," explained Capt. Adonis Chakides, the commander of the 220th. "So where we worked we had to dig down deep enough to get into some moist soil, haul that dirt where we needed it, then dump it and compact it. That was the big challenge there."
About two months and 48,000 cubic yards of dirt later, the 220th had made a dirt berm capable of stopping bullets from a .50 caliber machine gun and 16 firing points. They also made a gravel parking area to prevent flooding and a wooden sign engraved with the names of the fallen troops.
Rodeheaver praised the 220th for their hard work and for safety innovations; like walk-in foxholes. He said the 220th, the 648th, and Master Sgt. Brian Weldy, brigade master gunner, who helped draw the plans for the range, had done "a tremendous job" in making the range a reality.
The troops who spent hours working on the range feel gratified by the work of the dedication.
"It's great to see it finished like it is and great to get to contribute it to the fallen Soldiers of the brigade," Sgt. Michael Morgan of the 220th who worked as a survey team leader during the construction of the range. "It's just a great honor to do that."
The 48th BCT arrived in Iraq in May 2005. They served first in Forward Operating Base Stryker in the southern Baghdad region for the first several months of their deployment. In November, the unit headquarters moved south to Camp Adder to assume a new role as a combat support battalion.
After a long and violent deployment, the troops of the 48th BCT are preparing to transfer authority to the incoming 1st Brigade Combat Team, 34th Division.
"It's an outstanding accomplishment and it's a wonderful way to finish our tour here in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Mark Davis, the commander of the 648th. "Fortunately we've been able to improve every location where we've been and this is a great example of how we've been able to improve Tallil as well."