Balad Air Base
This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information. (February 2012)
|Balad Air Base|
Joint Base Balad, after all U.S. forces departed Nov 8, 2011
|Operator||Iraqi Air Force|
|Elevation AMSL||161 ft / 49 m|
Built in the early 1980s it was originally named Al-Bakr Air Base. In 2003 the base was occupied by the United States Armed Forces as part of the Iraq War and called both Balad Air Base by the United States Air Force and Logistical Support Area (LSA) Anaconda by the United States Army before being renamed Joint Base Balad on 15 June 2008. The base was handed back to the Iraqi Air Force during December 2011 returning to be called Balad Air Base.
During the Iraq War it was the second largest U.S. Base in Iraq and today is home to the Iraqi Air Force's General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Balad was formerly known as Al-Bakr Air Base, named in honor of Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, the president of Iraq from 1968 to 1979. It was considered by many in the Iraqi military to be the most important airfield of the Iraqi Air Force. During most of the 1980s, it operated with at least a brigade level force, with two squadrons of Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighters. Al-Bakr Air Base was especially well known for the large number of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) built by Yugoslavsian contractors during the Iran–Iraq War in the mid-1980s. It had four hardened areas—one each on either end of the main runways—with approximately 30 individual aircraft shelters.
The base was captured during April 2003 as part of the Iraq War
The Army's 310th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) and the Air Force's 332d Air Expeditionary Wing were headquartered at JBB. It was decided that the facility share one name, even though for many reasons and for its many occupants, it had differing names. Until mid-2008 the US Army had been in charge of Balad but, when it was re-designated as a joint base, the US Air Force assumed overall control. Balad was the central logistical hub for forces in Iraq. Camp Anaconda has also been more colloquially-termed "Life Support Area Anaconda" or the "Big Snake".
It housed 28,000 military personnel and 8,000 civilian contractors. Like most large bases in Iraq, LSA Anaconda offered amenities, circa 2006 and later, including a base movie theater (Sustainer Theater), two Base/Post Exchanges (BX/PX), fast food courts including Subway, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell (2007), Burger King, Green Beans Coffee, a Turkish Cafe, an Iraqi Bazaar, multiple gyms, dance lessons, an Olympic size swimming pool,and an indoor swimming pool. The base was a common destination for celebrities and politicians visiting US troops serving in Iraq on USO Tours including the Charlie Daniels band (2005), Vince Vaughn (2005), Carrie Underwood (2006), Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, Chris Isaak, Neal McCoy, Oliver North, and WWE.
- 129th CSSB (101st Sust. Bde.)
- 372nd Trans. Co. (129th CSSB)
- 557 Maintenance Co. Oct 2007 - Dec 2008
- 602nd Maintenance Co. Apr 2008 - Jun 2009
- A/51st Signal Battalion (Airborne) (along with an unknown MP platoon and unknown water purification platoon) took control in mid April 2003 from an unknown infantry unit until V corps arrived around 01 May 2003
- 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
- 411th Engineer Brigade between 2006 and 2007
- NMCB 28 and NMCB 4 - 2007
- Headquarters and Support Company, 463d Engineer Combat Battalion (Heavy) between 2004 and 2005
- 63rd Ordnance Company (PLS/MOADS) (United States) between 2004 and 2005
- 77th Sustainment Brigade 2011
- 103d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) between 2009 and 2011
- 100th Infantry Battalion
- Task Force 34
- 864th Engineer BN (Combat Heavy)
- 29th Brigade Combat Team (Hawaii National Guard) January 2005 - February 2006
- 323rd Military Police Company (Toledo, Ohio) April 2003 - July 2003
- Bravo Company (Home to the Double Duece) 279th Signal Battalion, Alabama National Guard, 2004-2005
- 332d Air Expeditionary Wing
- 332d Expeditionary Operations Group
- 22d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron – F-16CM Block 50 Fighting Falcons.
- 34th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from May to October 2008
- 332d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron – F-16 Block 30 Fighting Falcons
- 107th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Michigan ANG)
- 111th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Texas ANG)
- 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (New Jersey ANG)
- 120th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Colorado ANG)
- 121st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (DC ANG)
- 124th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Iowa ANG)
- 125th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Oklaholma ANG)
- 170th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Illinois ANG)
- 176th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Wisconsin ANG)
- 179th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Minnesota ANG)
- 186th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Montana ANG)
- 188th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Arkansas ANG)
- 332d Expeditionary Operations Group
- 777th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron – C-130 Hercules
- 64th Expeditionary Rescue Squadron – HH-60 Pave Hawk
- 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron – MQ-1B Predator
- 332d Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron – airfield management
- 362d Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron – MC-12W Liberty
- 727th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron – tactical command and control agency
- 1st Battalion, 131st Aviation Regiment from September 2006.
- Task Force 11th Aviation Regiment(United States Army Europe)from April 2003 until February 2004
Starting in 2003, several mortar rounds and rockets were fired per day by insurgents, usually hitting the empty space between the runways, although there were isolated injuries and fatalities. By mid-2006, this rate had dropped by about 40%. Due to these attacks, the soldiers and airmen refer to the base as "Mortaritaville", though this name is shared with other bases in Iraq.
Joint Base Balad had a burn pit operation as late as the summer of 2010. The pit, which was visible for miles, was in continuous use which resulted in 147 tons of waste burnt per day, some of which was considered toxic. Respiratory difficulties and headaches were attributed to smoke inhalation from the burnt waste; however, according to research conducted on behalf of the US Department of Veteran Affairs, there is insufficient evidence to connect those symptoms to burn pits. Despite this, the VA allows service members to file claims for symptoms they believe to be related to burn pit exposure.
Joint base Balad was also home to the Air Force Theater Hospital, a Level I trauma center which boasted a 98% survival rate for wounded Americans and Iraqis alike.
Black jail site
A black jail, a U.S. military detention camp to interrogate high-value detainees, was established at Balad in summer 2004, named the Temporary Screening Facility (TSF). A British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) lawyer who visited a black jail, believed to be at Balad, described it as holding prisoners in wooden crates, too small to stand in or lie down, who were subject to white noise.
Return to Iraqi control
As American forces left Iraq, Joint Base Balad was returned to the Iraqi Air Force in December 2011.
The base came under attack by ISIS militants in late June 2014, when the insurgents launched mortar attacks and reportedly surrounded the base on three sides.
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- Iraqi 9th Fighter Squadron has now 21 F-16C/Ds in its fleet
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