Operation Northern Delay
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|Operation Northern Delay|
|Part of the invasion of Iraq|
| United States
On 26 March 2003, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, C-17s of the 62d Airlift Wing, 315th Airlift Wing, 437th Airlift Wing, and 446th Airlift Wing dropped SETAF's 173rd Airborne Brigade into Northern Iraq. 996 paratroopers jumped into Bashur Airfield. The operation forced the Iraqi Army to maintain approximately six divisions in the area to protect its northern flank, providing strategic relief for Coalition Forces advancing on Baghdad from the south. Bashur Airfield is located in Central Iraq approximately 356 kilometers North of Baghdad, 50 kilometers Northeast of Erbil. The airbase is served by a single 6,700 foot long runway. Bashur appears to be a small civilian airport.
Bashur is the epitome of a bare base. It was nothing more than a 7,000-foot runway in the middle of a green valley. It had no infrastructure - no water or sewage system and no electricity, buildings or paved roads.
On 26 Mar 2003, more than 950 paratroopers from the 173d Airborne Brigade jumped into Bashur, Iraq, to set the stage for a northern front. Two days later, the first soldier from the 501st Forward Support Company, 173d Airborne Brigade, Supply Support Activity (SSA) arrived at Bashur Airfield. Within hours of landing on the ground, this specialist issued one day of supplies of Meals, Ready To Eat (MREs) along with bottled water to more than 2,000 service members from the 173d Airborne Brigade, the 201st Forward Support Battalion, 250th Field Surgical Team, 86th Air Force Contingency Response Group (CRG), US Marine units, and Joint Special Operations Task Force-North (JSOTF-N).
During the next two weeks at Bashur Airfield, all supplies arrived via the air lines of communication (ALOC) on C-17s and C-130s from Ramstein Air Force Base through Constanza Air Force Base in Romania. During an average 24-hour day of operations, more than 40 Air Force 463L ALOC pallets would arrive. Each pallet then had to be downloaded from the plane, transported to the SSA, processed and finally issued either to storage or to customers.
Some of the C-17s carried huge M1-A Abrams tanks, and weighed from 250,000 to 300,000 pounds when they landed. The runway, made of asphalt reinforced with more asphalt, took a pounding. The areas where the aircraft touched down began to crack and crumble. The heavy transports ground the runway's asphalt into dust.
After two weeks of pounding by heavy cargo planes, parts of Bashur's 7,000-foot runway crumbled, forcing the closure of 2,300 feet. Staff Sgt. Eric John Wood and Tech Sgt. Christina Bolle painted a new yellow stripe to aid aircrews in landing.
When airmen parachuted onto Bashur, they set up camp in a corner of the aircraft parking ramp. Two weeks later, everyone moved the tents to higher ground - and away from the runway
Bashur's no vacation spot, that's for sure. It's dusty when it's not raining and noisy day and night. Camp life revolved around long workdays. Airmen showered once a week, if lucky. And everyone hand-washed their clothes when they got a chance. The latrines - deep trenches in a field in full view of departing planes - were a 300-yard hike from the camp. A visit to the latrines became "the walk of shame." There's no question where people were going.
As of April 2003 Delta Battery 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment continued training in Bashur, Iraq on key tasks needed in future operations in the region. Delta Battery provided indirect fire support for coalition forces in the area.
A 20 April 2003 report in The New York Times asserted that "the U.S. is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region." The report, citing anonymous sources, referred to one base at Baghdad's international airport, another near Al-Nasiriyah in the south [presumably meaning Tallil AB], the third at the H-1 airstrip in the western desert, and the fourth at Bashur AB in the north.
Task Force Viking - 'Joint Special Operations Task Force - North'
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