Coalition Forces to Return Portion of Highway to Iraqis

Coalition forces will return part of Main Supply Route Tampa here to the Iraqi government this summer.

Over the past few years, the coalition expanded Convoy Support Center Scania until it incorporated a length of MSR Tampa, or Highway 1. At the time, taking over the highway and blocking it to local traffic was a necessary security precaution, said Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Amanda S. Crowley, the senior non-commissioned officer, 37th Movement Control Team, 330th Transportation Battalion.

As a consequence of this safety measure, local traffic utilizes an ungraded and unpaved bypass road. On such a road surface, vehicles, especially trucks, are more prone to accidents, breakdown, or even rollover, said Air Force 1st Lt. Hannah N. Grewatz, commanding officer, 37th MCT.

However, with the improving security situation in Iraq, where acts of violence against coalition forces are at their lowest levels since 2003, MSR Tampa’s southbound lanes will be returned to the Iraqi government.

“The main reason we came out here was to help out the Iraqi people,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Cesar E. Campos, 37th MCT. “We never intended to stay here for a long period of time, or to make things uncomfortable for the [Iraqis].”

Planning for the project began more than a year ago, said Grewatz, a native of Arlington, Texas. It required the coordination and partnership of various coalition forces, particularly for the movement of more than 3,000 concrete, steel-reinforced T-walls. The walls, which once enclosed the southbound lanes within the perimeter here, are being moved to the median.

Participating units meet daily to decide how best to facilitate the Army engineers of the 54th Engineer Brigade, Multi-National Division-South, said Crowley, a native of Ellsinore, Miss. Participants discussed how to mitigate the construction’s impact on convoy operations, the main reason for the base’s existence.

Campos, of San Jose, Calif., admitted giving back the southbound lanes is a challenge to his team, who will lose parking spots and staging lanes to manage convoys. It requires the coordination of MCTs across Iraq to schedule convoys so they do not arrive here all at once, or when a convoy leaves, causing traffic jams, Grewatz said.

“I’m sure it’s more frustrating for the convoys than it is for us,” she said. “Not really knowing what’s going on inside the yard, why they can’t come in as fast as they used to.”

Crowley said the number one priority is getting convoys inside the base as quickly and safely as possible. However, she went on to say, the long-term benefit of giving the road back to the Iraqis was important and Crowley believes the Iraqis appreciate it.

“They want to have a better road to drive on, and it helps facilitate what they do,” she said.