During mid-2003 roughly 4,500 US troops redeployed from Saudi Arabia to Qatar, leaving about 500 in Saudi Arabia, primarily at Eskan Village.
Tens of thousands of Air Force people have known it simply as "Eskan" -- their home away from home since the first days of the Operation Desert Shield build-up in 1990. Combined with Desert Storm, Vigilant Warrior, Southern Watch and dozens of other exercises during this period, Eskan has been their billeting.
A housing area called "Eskan Village," home for Air Force and other military people deployed to Riyadh Air Base, Saudi Arabia, is situated in a broad desert plain about 20 kilometers south of Riyadh Air Base. In August 1990, when the Air Force first deployed to Riyadh, Eskan was provided by the Saudi government as a government housing area for US and coalition forces. The housing complex of 841 "villas" and 44 high rise towers was built in 1983 for one of the many Bedouin tribes that live in the desert here. However, the tribe decided to maintain their lifestyle in the desert and the village complex was never occupied.
Air Force people can see the occasional Bedouin tribesman and camel outside the fences of Eskan, but it's still far enough from Riyadh that one rarely sees anything but rocks and desert. Eskan is surprisingly Americanized, with the "Mirage" dining hall, the "Pub" to drink near-beer and socialize, several tents that serve as the neighborhood gym and a small exchange and post office.
Army Forces Central Command-Saudi Arabia (ARCENT-Saudi Arabia), headquartered at Eskan Village, exercises administrative control of Army forces operating in Saudi Arabia. The ARCENT-Saudi Arabia headquarters also conducts coordination with the host nation for US Patriot missile assets and security forces forward deployed to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Additionally, ARCENT-Saudi Arabia plans and executes reception, staging, onward movement, and integration of these deploying forces.
On 25 June 1996, the lives of 19 United States military personnel were lost in a terrorist attack on Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). This attack began the planning phase of Operation DESERT FOCUS, which eventually led to the relocation of approximately 6,000 people within KSA and improved the Command's ability to protect lives and assets stationed throughout Southwest Asia (SWA). Operation DESERT FOCUS relocated people, aircraft and equipment to three primary sites in KSA: Eskan Village, Riyadh; Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), Al Kharj; and Eagletown/Site 12, Dhahran.
The Army's Patriot batteries and their support personnel remained in Riyadh and Dhahran. The crews at Dhahran moved from Khobar Towers to the Royal Saudi Air Force's King Abdul Aziz Air Base. The crews from Riyadh moved to Eskan Village. The forces from Riyadh relocated at Eskan Village in a matter of weeks, during August 1996.
Before the Khobar Towers bombing, people used Eskan Village when deployed to Riyadh Air Base or at offices in the capital of Riyadh. Since the bombing, security concerns prompted the move of commanders and their coalition headquarters from Riyadh to Eskan. With the movement to consolidate troops in Saudi Arabia, all Department of Defense people previously working and living in downtown Riyadh relocated to Eskan Village. US and coalition forces moved to Eskan, and aircraft units at Riyadh Air Base and the large military population at Dhahran moved to Prince Sultan Air Base. Prince Sultan, a huge Saudi air base used during the Gulf War, is located about 50 miles southeast of Eskan.
CENTAF's newly developed Air Defense System Integrator, which replaced the Rapidly Deployable Integrated Command and Control System, was integrated with the Kuwaiti Low Altitude Surveillance System - an aerostat with radar - and significantly improved the theater early-warning network. This also reduced the strain on the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) crews. Circuits that supported the air picture and Air Tasking Order were the first to be cut- over. The relocation of JTF-SWA operations to Eskan Village achieved initial operational capability on 13 August 1996, only 17 days after the effort began. The crux of the strategic communications infrastructure restructuring fell upon the 54th Signal Battalion. The 54th was responsible for activating a 45Mbps microwave link from the strategic Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) entry point on the Riyadh AT&T compound to Eskan Village, planning and executing numerous cable projects within Eskan Village and rehoming the necessary circuits to all new facilities. CINCCENT directed relocation of all facilities at the Riyadh USMTM Compound to Eskan Village. All SWA DII C4 facilities operated and maintained by the 54th Signal Battalion (e.g., TCF, SL-100 telephone switch, telecommunications center (TCC), and Battalion/Company functions) had to be moved.
Today, nearly 2,000 military people are using Eskan Village as their oasis when deployed to Riyadh Air Base in the capital city of Saudi Arabia. But with temperatures reaching in the 120s and hotter, the villa's main feature is air-conditioning. Summers in the Arabian desert are brutal. All villas have been or are in the process of being renovated. The average "Villa" has five bedrooms, three baths and a living room and kitchen. One bedroom, in addition to having its own television set, has a private bathroom with tub and shower. The two bedrooms near the entry have a bathroom with shower nearby. The two bedrooms in the back of the villa have a bathroom with tub and shower nearby. A television is also provided in each villa's living room. A kitchen is present in each villa and is equipped with a gas-fired stove. Each villa also has a free washing machine. Dryers are only available to villas housing female personnel reportedly due to thefts of some of their clothing items when hung out to dry.
Located near the medical and dental clinics is the Mirage Dining Facility. The facility is only open to US service members and the food is free for TDY personnel. Near the Mirage is a basketball court. Also nearby are the volleyball courts, miniature golf course and the Pub. The Pub serves a variety of food. The shwarma, a local sandwich delicacy in pita bread is quite popular. There is also a Pizza Inn and a Chinese fast food restaurant. The United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) runs the Eskan Community Club. The facility provides fine dining with an atmosphere. It also has an upstairs dining room for banquets and special events. Occasionally, free traveling entertainment shows perform at the club. In back of the club is the swimming pool.
In January 2001 the antiballistic missile defense mission in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait changed hands from one PATRIOT missile task force to another. Task Force 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment relieved Task Force 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, both home stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas. Both units boast significant firsts. Outgoing TF 1-1 ADA was the first US PATRIOT missile unit to train alongside their Royal Saudi Air Defense Force counterparts. In January 2001, 1-1 ADA conducted four days of combined training at various sites with soldiers from RSADF PATRIOT Battalion 104. Incoming TF 2-1 ADA was the first PATRIOT missile unit to deploy with elements of its National Guard counterparts. Battery B (PATRIOT), 1st Battalion, 203rd ADA Regiment, Alabama Army National Guard, joined TF 2-1 ADA in this historic rotation. The PATRIOT Task Force brought a variety of capabilities to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. TF 2-1 ADA provided an integrated air defense capability in support of Joint Task Force - Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA). TF 2-1 ADA became a subordinate unit to U.S. Army Forces Central Command - Saudi Arabia (ARCENT-SA).
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