Airmen help secure Iraq’s infrastructure

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kevin Nichols
  • Central Command Air Forces Public Affairs

Forty percent of Iraq’s oil and 14 percent of the world’s oil supply comes from Kirkuk, Iraq. Since oil is the lifeline of Iraq, it’s important to secure the country’s pipelines from danger and help make the oil run as efficiently as possible.

That’s where the three-man POInT team comes in.

Tech. Sgt. Billy Tramel is one part of the power and oil infrastructure team. Part of his mission as the oil infrastructure liaison is to look for leaks in Iraq’s oil pipes and work with Iraqis to secure those pipes so vital to the country’s existence. The team is small, but its impact is felt across the world.

“The ultimate goal is to have Iraqis operating independently without coalition forces support or help,” said Sergeant Tramel, who is deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah. “Securing the pipelines as well as producing product.”

Along with his partner, Chief Master Sgt. Paul Kaplan, an electrical infrastructure liaison deployed from Travis AFB, Calif., they venture out on Army-led convoys to also check some of Iraq’s electrical towers. Finding the probable cause of these failures puts them into the role of investigators.

“Tracking events and attacks and deciding whether they are insurgent attacks, is it Mother Nature, poor construction, things like that,” Chief Kaplan said. “We spend a lot of time doing that.”

The downed high-voltage lines from these towers severely limit power to Baghdad, which consumes 23 to 26 percent of Iraq’s total electrical power.

“With these towers down, it limits how we can help Baghdad,” he said.

The fully loaded Army convoy they ride in is vital to the team’s success. Without them protecting the POInT throughout the Kirkuk region, the team wouldn’t be able to interact with the Iraqi people, who they talk with almost daily keeping up relations and helping with the technical aspects of running oil and power on their own.

“(Local nationals) have a lot of great ideas and it’s our job to help them funnel those great ideas into a reality,” Sergeant Tramel said, feeling positive about helping Iraq move forward without coalition help.

“Our ultimate goal is to give the Iraqis the capability to produce their own power, distribute their own power,” Chief Kaplan said. “And more importantly, secure all the towers, electrical distribution and facilities so we can make a graceful exit, shake their hands and congratulate them on the great job they’re doing, and they can run the country by themselves without our assistance.”

The capabilities and impact the team provides today in Iraq may likely lead to the foundation of a nation in the future.