Thursday, March 6, 2008

Good News from Iraq: 6 Mar 2008

From MNF-I, Route Michigan Opens in Ramadi, Traffic Flows Again.

CAMP RAMADI — Three years ago, Route Michigan was closed for Iraqis because of all the violence in the city of Ramadi, but all that changed when Coalition forces and city officials reopened the main road during a ribbon cutting ceremony, March 2.

Gone are the concertina wires and cement barriers, which have been replaced with newly-constructed tiled medians and street lights on the main road of the city.

“The opening up of Route Michigan is an important day for Ramadi,” said Ramadi Mayor Latif Obaid Ayadah. “It will allow traffic to move easier through the city from here to other places in Iraq.”

Route Michigan is the major highway out of Baghdad that runs west through Fallujah and Ramadi, and all the way through Anbar province to the Syrian border. It’s the main supply route for commercial goods, and traveling through much of western Iraq.

“The safety of Route Michigan will be run by the Iraqi Police, who will be controlling the two checkpoints on the street,” Ayadah said. “It was closed for years because of all the violence from terrorists.”

The improved security enables the usage of the entire route for civilian traffic, which was thought to be unlikely given the road’s violent past. Iraqi Police from all districts of the city turned out to witness the grand opening.

“The city has been through a lot,” said Iraqi Police Major Adel Ahmad, from the Kurama Iraqi Police station. “This road has been closed from combat operations in the city for too long. We all worked hard to get to this point, and it’s great to see life returning to normal.”

Present for the ribbon cutting was the 1st Brigade Combat Team Commander, Col. John Charlton, whose unit helped bring stability to the city in the beginning of last year.

“Ramadi is a safe city again from the efforts of Iraqi Police, Soldiers and Coalition forces here today,” he said. “The city looks great; there’s lots of construction going on, and I’m humbled to be here and see travel through the city open for everyone.”

Ramadi was plagued by insurgents, which all but disrupted life in the capital of Iraq’s western province. Now the area along Route Michigan is a far-cry from the war torn streets of yesterday.

“When I first drove on Michigan a year ago, the streets were lined with building rubble and there was trash everywhere,” said Spc. Jamie Blasingame, Company B, 3rd Brigade Support Battalion personal security detachment.

He said the people on the road didn’t have a sense of being safe considering how bad security was in the city.

“That’s the feeling you got when you moved down the route,” Blasingame said. “There were hardly any people near the buildings that lined the route.”

The Soldiers moving through the city have seen a big change in the short time they have driven on Route Michigan. The roads have been cleaned and military convoys move with the traffic instead of stopping it completely.

“The traffic doesn’t stop for us and now Iraqis have the freedom on the road like you’d see anywhere else,” said Spc. Alaisea Yandall, also from Co. B, 3rd BSB. “I never thought I’d see such a big change in the city.”

Soldiers driving through the main street of the city can attest that if Route Michigan’s opening is any indication, Ramadi is going to see more good times ahead.