Al Taji Army Airfield / Al Taji Camp

Overview

Al Taji Army Airfield is located approximately 27 kilometers Northwest of downtown Baghdad, at the town of Taji. According to the Gulf War Airpower Survey, there was a Sector Operations Center located at Al Taji. The airbase is served by a 5,500 foot long runway.

The Al Taji complex also repaired SCUD's and tanks. The Taji factory complex had doubled in size by 1985, and included a forge capable of producing 1000 artillery barrels per year and armor maintenance and refit plants for the T-54, T-55, and T-62 tanks in the Iraqi inventory. The complex also included facilities for assembly of the T-72, and would eventually build armor and tank bodies. Iraq did import T-72 kits, which were intended to lead to a transition to production, though Iraq appears to lack the industrial base for such production [T-72 production resumed in 1993, assembling tanks from kits provided before the Gulf War].

On the last night of Desert Storm, a pair of F-111F Pave Tack Equipped aircraft based at Taif AB in Saudi, carried newly developed GBU-28 Penetrator Bombs to attack the Command Bunkers at Al Taji AB, north of Bagdad. This was one of three such bunkers utilized by Saddam Hussein during the War. Initially I-2000 Bombs were unsuccessful. Bunker #1 was hit with at least three weapons utilizing seven second delay fuzes. This raid on Al Taji Air Base was considered by the Press to be an actual attempt to kill Saddam Hussein himself.

In the Al Taji Camp (20 km north of Baghdad) there was heavy damage, with 13 different targets in the Camp hit during the December 1998 Desert Fox air strikes. This area contains several weapons of mass destruction facilities, units of the Republican Guard, and the main repair shops of the Iraqi Army Armoured Corps.

As of February 1997 the Republican Guard Al-Madeena Al-Munawara Armored Division had one of its Armored Brigades deployed in Al-Rashdiya, while the others were at Al-Taji Military Camp. It is assigned to the protection of Baghdad.

The new Iraqi Army of 40,000 persons require basing facilities at 18 locations. Prospective Military Bases to re-construct include Tadji (under Construction as of mid-Jan 2004)

In January 2004. it was announced that work would start soon on a $28.3 million project to renovate the Tadji Military Base and Iraqi Armed Forces recruiting stations. The Tadji project includes building renovation; renovation and construction of medical facilities; repair a wastewater treatment plant, and install sewage distribution lines. The project is funded through the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Coalition Provisional Authority. The PMO manages the $18.4 billion appropriated by the U.S. Congress to support the reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure. The project is important to the Iraqi security necessary to continue with the major task of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. A key benefit of completing this project is to give the Iraqi Armed Forces the facilities they need for the defense of their country. Helping Iraqis gain jobs and build industries will have a direct impact on their safety and security. The work was completed by early June 2004. The prime contractor, Parsons Infrastructure & Technology Group of Pasadena, California, U.S.A. involved Iraqi contractors, suppliers and labor.
Camp Cooke

By late 2003 the US occupation forces was producing officers for the New Iraqi Army through the Jordan Training Initiative. The Coalition put these officers through a nine-day vetting period at Taji Base. And each went through the medical and physical tests again, and each went through an interview process, and during the course of exercises were assessed on their ability to operate within the context of the multiethnic group and their leader skills. That was a comprehensive assessment phase as we inducted them en route to training for a two-and-a-half-month training period in Jordan.

By late January 2004 engineers from the 1st Armored Division were midway through an $800 million project to build half a dozen camps for the incoming 1st Cavalry Division. Army planners expected to finish by 15 March 2004. The new outposts, dubbed Enduring Camps, were meant to improve living quarters for soldiers and allow the military to return key infrastructure sites within the Iraqi capital to the emerging government, military leaders said. "The plan is for the camps to last five to 10 years," said Col. Lou Marich, commander of the 1st AD engineers. "They will last longer if we take care of them." Moving to the outskirts of town will allow Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to take a lead role in the city's security. North of the city, about 5,000 troops were scheduled to live in Taji, a former Iraqi base.

The memory of a 1st Armored Division senior noncommissioned officers' service and sacrifice lives on at one of the U.S. Army's enduring base camps in Iraq. The former Iraqi air force base in Taji was officially renamed Camp Cooke 23 March 2004 during a dedication ceremony in honor of Command Sgt. Maj. Eric F. Cooke, 1st Brigade Combat Team command sergeant major. Cooke was killed Dec. 24 during a combat patrol in Baghdad when his vehicle struck an improvised explosive device. Camp Cooke is one of several enduring forward operating bases and is located in northern outskirts of Baghdad. Most U.S. military personnel serving in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom will live on one of these bases.

As of mid-2004, a shuttle bus system had reportedly been set up at Camp Cooke to transport personel within the base. The "Boneyard", dumping ground for former military assets of Saddam's regime was not, however, serviced by the bus system.
Camp Taji

In mid-September 2004, as part of an Army-wide effort to give its facilities around Baghdad friendlier connotations, and try to resolve the issue of constantly-changing facility names, Camp Cooke was renamed Camp Taji, with its Arabic translation "Camp Taji".

The quality of life at Camp Taji gets better every day. The Camp now has the Largest PX in Iraq , which has a Subway, Burger King and Pizza Hut. They also have a newly built dining facility, which is three times larger and the food selection is unbelievable. There are several Gyms and MWR facilities where soldiers can exercise, watch movies or sporting events and play games. Soldiers live in air-conditioned and heated trailers, have hot showers and can eat four meals a day in the new dining facility.

Soldiers on Camp Taji had a lot to celebrate on a day full of Thanksgiving activities with the grand opening of a new post exchange and dining facility 25 November 2004. The new exchange boasts 29,000 square feet of retail space. The additional space gave the exchange the ability to add merchandise that previous locations on Camp Taji were unable to accommodate. The construction of the facility took over two months to complete with employees and contractors working through the night to ensure the store's opening in conjunction with the Thanksgiving holiday. It will be able to serve over 1,000 soldiers at a time and up to 14,000 soldiers in a day. The facility is named the Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Cooke Sports Zone. It pays homage to the former command sergeant major of the 1st Armored Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team, who was killed on Christmas Eve 2003 while visiting his soldiers.

From office supplies, to combat boots, war is hell on equipment. Without the right equipment, performing one's mission at best can be difficult.at worst, impossible. With operations that run around the clock, soldiers of the Headquarters Company and 239th Military Intelligence Company supply sections ensure Bowie Brigade troopers always have the proper equipment. The sign attached to the wooden fence in front of the non-descript warehouse belies the building's true purpose. "Welcome to Little Rock!" the stenciled letters read, the only indication that this particular warehouse is different on the long stretch of road dotted with similar buildings. The 239th MI Co. and the brigade's HHC (Headquarters Company) are responsible for the issue, maintenance and accounting of all OCIE (Organizational Clothing, Individual Equipment).

Housed in an unassuming concrete structure, the remnant of a prior regime, a small group of men humbly awaits their next mission. Their job requires strength, humility, teamwork and courage. They are the firefighters of Camp Taji. Assembled from the Puerto Rico National Guard's 215th Engineering Detachment and Massachusetts-based Army Reserve units, the 287th and 356th Engineering Detachments, the 1st Cavalry Division fire-fighters on Camp Taji play a pivotal role as first responders to a variety of situations ranging from hazardous material clean-up to crash and rescue services.

Back home, their civilian occupations are as varied as the states they come from, but they all have one thing in common: they all know how to push cement. Soldiers of the 980th Engineer Battalion (Combat Heavy) attached to the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, layed the foundation for an airfield expansion at Camp Taji in October 2004. The 980th is a reserve battalion headquartered in Austin, Texas with subordinate units in San Antonio and Seagolville. They are between the combat engineers who are pushing stuff out of the way and the more permanent type of construction performed by the Corps of Engineers. They have the skills to support long-term construction projects. Compared to previous projects, their current mission is by far the largest since they were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Their mission is to construct an expansion apron and they poured in the neighbor of 40 acres of concrete. The project included building demolition, grading, concrete placement and apron construction. When the project was completed they had poured over 50,000 cubic feet of cement.

Thanks a charity organization called the Freedom Calls Foundation, soldiers stationed in Taji can talk to loved ones back home free of charge. The facility offers 30 phones, 4 video conferencing stations, 10 video email stations, and 40 computers with email and internet access.

Inside Camp Taji there is the Taji Training Center which trains new Iraqi military recruits (Jundis or privates). As of February 2006, about 2,000 Iraqis have been trained at Taji. U.S. soldiers were mainly responsible for training the Jundis in the early stages of the occupation. More recently, U.S. forces seve a more advisory role with the responsibility of basic training being primarily tasked with Iraqi instructors. At Taji, Jundis learn how to man checkpoints, clear rooms, perform first aid, marksmanship and drill and ceremony.

As the partnership between the Iraqi army and Coalition Forces grows each day, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers poured more than $3.5 million into the local Iraqi community to open a renovated Iraqi army theater and two renovated health clinics. The theater is now available to the 15,000 Iraqi troops who call Camp Taji their home. The facility not only improves the quality of life for the troops, but also cements a friendship growing between Coalition Forces and the Iraqi army. The Taji Cinema, which was essentially destroyed during the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, had the old roof removed and replaced, 500 seats re-upholstered and a new restroom area with eight toilets installed. The project cost $754,000 and took almost seven months to complete. This facility will offer many activities, ceremonies and show a lot of training videos to train the Iraqi army and the new Iraq.

In addition to the theater, two 143-square-meter health clinics have been built. The $3 million project gives Iraqi soldiers accessibility to medical clinics with some of the latest equipment in medical technology.
Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gunner

With the construction of the new Kellogg, Brown and Root dining facility complete, soldiers from all over Forward Operating Base (FOB) Gunner have begun flocking to the area to experience the new food. After months of MRE's, T-Rations, and A-Rations, eating real food is an exciting change. The soldiers don't seem to mind the air-conditioned eating area, either.

The dining facility started out serving only two meals a day to allow the troops to adjust to the new diet. Now, the dining facility has increased to full production, which is four meals a day. The breakfast menu has a variety of choices, ranging from eggs, bacon, and sausage to pancakes, French toast, and the reliable staple of sausage gravy. The cereal bar is always available, as well as fresh fruit and juice. Lunch consists of your classic hamburger and hot dogs, as well as chicken sandwiches and fish sticks, just to name a few of the daily choices. Dinner seems to be the soldier's best chance for some good ol' (almost) American-style meals. With meals ranging from steak to fried chicken, soldiers are enjoying the tastes from the States here in Taji, Iraq.

The dining facility has also begun catering to the personnel that work on the night shift. The midnight meal allows these individuals a chance to grab a quick bite from the sandwich line or to get a head start on the day by choosing from the breakfast bar.

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