Balad Airbase is located in Northern Iraq approximately 68 kilometers North of Baghdad. Balad Airbase is one of the largest Airbases in Iraq. The airfield is served by two runways 11,300 and 11,200 feet long respectively. Balad occupies a 25 square kilometer site and is protected by a 20 kilometers security perimeter. According to the "Gulf War Air Power Survey, there were 39 hardened aircraft shelters. At the each end of the main runway are hardened aircraft shelters knowns as "trapezoids" or "Yugos" which were build by Yugoslavian contractors some time prior to 1985.
The installation is the launching point for Air Force F-16 fighters, Army helicopters and Army military intelligence unmanned aerial systems. The Balad Airbase is in a very strategic location for Air Force missions in support of combat operations into Baghdad. F-16's are close enough to Baghdad that by the time they put their gear’s up they are in the combat zone. If the base takes mortar fire fighter pilots are able to quickly bombard insurgents just a couple of miles from the runway. They also can streak to anywhere over Iraq's 227,000 square miles in about 15 minutes, refueled by airborne tankers and propelled by an engine that produces an earth-shaking 24,000 pounds of thrust.
Even when the pilots return to Balad having not fired a single bullet or missile they are often crucial to missions by just the roar of their jet engines. The deafening and menacing sound is often enough to scatter insurgents and to reassure soldiers that assistance is at hand. Furthermore, skilled pilots have been able to spot IEDs on the ground before they are detonated and warn soldiers below of the explosive's location.
Balad is the launching point for many various aircraft. From the C-5 Galaxy transport to the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle and everything in between. In addition, the U.S. Army has about 200 helicopters - including Apaches, Black Hawks and Chinooks - based at Balad.
It is the largest and busiest aerial port operation in all of Iraq. In a typical month at Balad, as much cargo and five times as many people move through there as does through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
No only do airmen at Balad keep track everything coming onto and going from the base but also of all military aircraft operating in all of Iraq. Radar antennae at the base scan the entire country, providing a complete image of everything in the airspace over Iraq. This information is scrutinized and disseminated by a half-dozen airmen working in two bus-sized containers crammed with high-tech equipment.
As of 10 June 2002, there was no Ikonos imagery of Balad Airbase in Space Imaging's Carterra Archive.
A total of 70 UN inspectors visited 11 sites on 7 January 2003. A team of four International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors visited the Al-Bakr (a.k.a. Balad Southeast) air base, located approximately 100 kilometers north of Baghdad. The Foreign Ministry noted that the purpose of the visit was "to verify the quantity of the explosive material type HMX, which was sent from the Al-Qa'qa State Company" to the air base. Apparently the HMX was used to destroy partially standing buildings that had been bombed by coalition forces. Inspectors visited the HMX storage area and tested the site for radiation, according to the ministry.
As of Febuary 2006, Balad AB was home to about 25,000 U.S. troops.
The base is so large it has its own 'neighborhoods'. These include: 'KBR-land' (a Halliburton subsidiary company); 'CJSOTF' which is home to a special operations unit,' the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force and is surrounded by especially high walls that is, according to The Washington Post, so secretive that even the base Army public affairs chief has never been inside. There is a Subway sandwich shop, a Pizza Hut, a Popeye's, a 24-hour Burger King, two post exchanges which sell an impressive array of goods, four mess halls, a minature golf course and a hospital. The base has a strictly enforced on-base speed limit of 10 MPH.
Camp Anaconda / LSA Anaconda
Camp Anaconda is a large US base near Balad, spread over 15 square miles. As of late June 2004, the majority of the airfield's pre-existing bunkers have been abandoned by the US military. Facility Engineer Team 21 out of Ft Devens is the Department of Public Works for the basecamp. As of September 2003 the Team was working on a Master Plan for the base, which may get as big as 20,000 soldiers. As of May 2004 the base had 17,000 troops and was 12 1/2 miles in circumference. Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee in March 2004 that ". . . we are making Balad Airfield our primary hub in the region, and the idea of doing that is because we need to have the Baghdad International Airport revert to civilian control."
The 4,000 troops in the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, had nine forward operating bases spread across 1,500 square miles of Iraq north of Baghdad, from Samarra to Taji. The headquarters is at Logistics Support Area [LSA, probably not Life Sustainment Area] Anaconda, a logistics support area about 12 miles from FOB Eagle.
An engineer company from the Florida Army National Guard under V Corps command made a major contribution to corps efforts in Operation Iraqi Freedom by rebuilding a former Iraqi aviation academy into this logistics hub near Balad that is operated by the corps's 3rd Corps Support Command. The 269th Engineer Company from Live Oak, Fla., runs an asphalt facility on the base and does all the paving needed to improve the LSA's day-to-day operations. Asphalt is a flexible pavement that is more cost effective than concrete, requires less manpower and holds up better without cracking. Originally the Army, in its quest to put as many operations as possible into Iraqi hands, wanted locals to fulfill the base's asphalt needs, but when they were unable to meet the demand, the Florida soldiers took over. The soldiers of the 269th arrived in May 2003, and brought its asphalt facility here from Kuwait in July 2003. In the interim they kept busy with a variety of odd jobs. It took eight days to set up, and its use here marked the first time the plant has been put into operation since it was first established in Florida 10 years ago. The facility can make up to 150 tons of asphalt an hour, but rarely works at that high of output.
By June 2003 it offered very little in the way of modern conveniences as it is still in its infant stages of development. All the tents were up and all workstations are operational. Although the Army had only been here a few weeks, troops of the 211th MP BN had already done much to support force protection efforts in and around the Area of Operation. House raids and arrests with the MPs included use of three Abrams tanks. The fighting occurred in an area of central Iraq known as the "Sunni Triangle".
On the night of 03 July 2003, American forces were attacked in two separate incidents in Balad, 90km north-west of Baghdad. The well-coordinated ambushes led to 18 American soldiers being injured and left 11 Iraqi fighters dead. The attacks involved typical guerilla weapons such as machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, as well as a new element - highly accurate mortars which can be fired from as far away as 6.5km. In one attack on a highway near Balad, US soldiers were ambushed three times over a span of eight hours by about 50 enemies lying in wait in trenches and behind earthen berms on both sides of the highway. The guerillas were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns. Previously, most attacks on American forces in Iraq had involved smaller groups of gunmen.
Less than two hours before the first ambush, four mortar rounds were fired into the grounds of Camp Anaconda. A total of 16 soldiers were wounded in a mortar attack against a logistics post near Balad, Iraq, July 3. Two of the soldiers, all members of the 4th Infantry Division, were evacuated from the area and are in stable condition. The rest were treated and released. This was the first instance of a mortar attack against U.S. troops since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.
Iraqi insurgents dropped mortar rounds on an American military supply depot in a July 7 night attack, according to the CJFT-7 spokesman. There were no American casualties. The depot is located near Balad, which is more than 50 miles north of the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad. Twelve suspects were detained after the depot attack.
A dental clinic opened at the US Army Baghdad Hospital in Baghdad 05 July 2003 to provide standard dental treatment to soldiers in the area. The dental clinic is located in what used to be Saddam Hussein's personal medical treatment facility. A six-man team was sent from the 561st Medical Company at Camp Anaconda in Balad, Iraq, to start a dental clinic for the soldiers in Baghdad.
By late September 2003 Iraqis were assisting 3rd Corps Support Command soldiers in keeping Logistical Support Area Anaconda in Balad safe. A security patrol was trained to assist guards at the front gate of the installation. These guards conduct pre-inspections before civilian non-tactical vehicles enter the gate of LSA Anaconda. The volunteers are mostly former Iraqi soldiers. Training includes elements of drill and ceremony, necessary commands, voice inflections and taking charge of situations. The focus remains on the proper procedures for searching vehicles. Instead of focusing on how to guard the installation, they concentrate on recognizing when something is out of the ordinary, identifying objects out of place and taking command of situations when something doesn't seem right.
More than 70 tents had been erected since airmen arrived at Balad AB in early November 2003.
By June 2004, most troops stationed at LSA Anaconda had moved into trailer complexes. These trailers were obtained from local manufacturers and there are hundreds arranged in rows. Most are single-wide traileres separated into two or three parts known in the slang as "hootches". Usually two soldiers are assigned to each hootch. Air conditioned is provided by individual units mounted in windows.
Five cafeteria-style dining facilities are run on the post by civilian contractors. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and midnight dinner are served. A variety of food is served including hot meals, fresh fruit, and beverages. A post exchange is also operated so soldiers can buy canned goods and snacks.
As of June 2004, the 181st Support Battalion ran a health clinic on the post that treated most illnesses and also provided dental and eye services. More serious injuries are referred to the post hospital, with trauma patients being evacuated to Europe.
For entertainment, LSA Anaconda has two swimming pools, which were built by Iraqis before the war. Also, a first-run 35-mm indoor movie theater shows three free movies a day. The theater is huge, and is one of the most hardened structures on the base, providing one of the best sanctuarys on base during mortar attacks. Religious services are provided by military chaplains, and there are smaller events run by individual soldiers or units.
There is a fitness gym operated on base. Those who run or jog for exercise have three choices: the added weight of a flak vest and helmet, the gymnasium's treadmills, or the track, where they can run in circles after leaving their vests in the center of the infield.
Soldiers at Anaconda have the opportunity for language and cultural familiarity classes to learn basic Arabic phrases and customs. An on base combat stress clinic provides counseling and support for soldiers.
LSA Anaconda, the largest support base in Iraq, is reportedly nicknamed "Mortaritaville" because of the frequency of mortar/rocket attacks on the base. As of mid-October 2004, an article in the Seattle Times reported, the facility, home to roughly 22,500 US troops and an additional 2,500 contractors, had been on the receiving end of roughly two attacks daily since July. Public affairs officials say they have had a tough time convincing reporters in Baghdad to venture to this camp that serves as the major hub for coalition convoy operations.
Balad Air Base saw the opening of Burger King and Pizza Hut restaurants Oct. 10, 2004. Lines started forming outside the two fast-food restaurants about 9 a.m., an hour before the grand opening. The base is also home to a Subway and Baskin Robbins.
Camp Anaconda is known for its intense heat – most days now are well above 100 degrees – and swirling dust only adds to the misery of carrying a 5-pound helmet and 30-pound jacket which soldiers in Camp Anaconda are required to do. An order few other coalition camps have to follow.
Consolidation is happening at Anaconda as it transforms from a Forward Operating Base concept to a COB. That is why the 69th is running cable at Anaconda. The 69th's cable dogs are installing a variety of cables for different kinds of communication systems. The 69th's soldiers are currently removing tactical communication lines and installing more permanent cable lines. The job is to put in miles of fiber cable to create a way to connect a variety of communication systems that is a critical infrastructure. A large concrete pad has been poured on which a tall communication tower will be erected - another sign of permanency. These new systems are being installed at Camp Anaconda and two other locations, where some of the company has soldiers from 1st and 2nd platoons, the names of the other two bases have not been released.
FOB Lion FOB O'Ryan (TF 2-108)
FOB O'Ryan, formerly known as FOB Lion, is located about five miles away from LSA Anaconda. Although smaller than Anazonda, O'Ryan has good internet and phone services available.
Camp Balad is located about 70 miles north of Baghdad [other reports claim that Camp Balad is 40-42 miles north of Baghdad]. Arnold Schwarzenegger toured to Kuwait and Iraq for the 4th of July, 2003. Arnold visited with injured Soldiers at the Army field hospital in Balad, Iraq. As of October 2003 the 21st Casualty Support Hospital was deployed at Camp Balad.
First Class Stephen E. Wyatt of Charlie Battery was on a convoy on October 13, 2003 that departed FOB Carpenter on a routine mission. Shortly thereafter the convoy encountered an IED that killed PFC Wyatt. In honor of PFC Wyatt, Charlie Battery subsequently renamed FOB Carpenter into FOB Wyatt.
In early 2004 units of the 105th Combat Engineer Battalion of the North Carolina Army National Guard battalion was spread over four different locations in Iraq. Their missions were mainly basic life support. "Caring for quality of life such as water, housing, dining facilities for troops to mess (eat) in and setting up for long range sustained support. Company A from Rockingham and Wadesboro was divided between Forward Operating Bases Cobra and Wyatt north of Baghdad.
FOB Omaha FOB Vanguard
FOB Vanguard is located in Ad Dujayl, a southern section of Balad. The 210th Iraqi National Guard Battalion uses both the Balad Air Base and FOB Vanguard.