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|This article's factual accuracy may be compromised due to out-of-date information.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
|IATA: OR9 – ICAO: ORBD|
|Operator||Iraqi Air Force|
|Elevation AMSL||161 ft / 49 m|
It was opened during the 1980s called Al-Bakr Air Base which housed Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-23 fighters, during the 2000s 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 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 AB, 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 AB was especially well known for the large number of hardened aircraft shelters (HAS) built by the Yugoslavs 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 the base but, when the base went "Joint" the US Air Force took 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 Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell (2007), Burger King, Green Bean Coffee, a Turkish Cafe with Turkish food prepared by Turks, an Iraqi Bazaar which sold local souvenirs, 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 Wayne Newton, Gary Sinise, Chris Isaak, Neal McCoy, and Ollie North. Carrie Underwood played there in December 2006 and Gary Sinise visited again going out of his way to greet the troops at the Base/Post Exchange (BX/PX).
- 532nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron
- 411th Engineer Brigade between 2006 and 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 between 2007 and 2011
- 103d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) between 2009 and 2011
- 100th Infantry Battalion
- Task Force 34
- 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)
- 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
Starting in 2003, several mortar rounds and rockets were fired per day, 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 2008 burning 147 tons of waste per day when the Army Times published a major story about it and about health concerns. Respiratory difficulties and headaches were reported.
Joint base Balad was also home to the Air Force Theater Hospital, a Level I trauma center which boasts a 98% survival rate for wounded Americans and Iraqis alike.
Back 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, with the insurgents launching mortar attacks and reportedly surrounding the base of three sides.
- Carter, Phillip (October 18, 2006). "The Thin Green Line". Slate.com. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- "Letters to the editor for Wednesday, October". Stars and Stripes. October 27, 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- Powell, Anita (July 22, 2006). "Attacks on the decrease at LSA Anaconda, aka 'Mortaritaville'". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 2007-07-25.
- "Burn pit at Balad raises health concerns: Troops say chemicals and medical waste burned at base are making them sick, but officials deny risk" article by Kelly Kennedy in Army Times Oct 29, 2008, accessed 2010-08-07.
- Mason, Michael (March 2007). "Dead Men Walking". Discover.
- "Iraqi generals visit to better understand base transition". U.S. Air Force. Retrieved 2015-08-23.
- Lake, Eli; Josh Rogin (25 June 2014). "ISIS Tries to Grab Its Own Air Force". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2014-06-26.
- AirForces Monthly. Stamford, Lincolnshire, England: Key Publishing Ltd. August 2014. p. 23.
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