Camp Speicher / FOB Speicher
Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher, previously known as Camp Speicher or Forward Operating Base (FOB) Speicher (sometimes erroneously written as "Spiker"), was located at Al Sahra Airfield near the city of Tikrit in northern Iraq, approximately 170 kilometers North of Baghdad and 11 kilometers west of the Tigris River.
The facility was named after Navy Commander Michael Speicher. Coalition forces' only air-to-air loss during the 1991 Gulf War was the plane of Commander Speicher. F/A-18 pilot Michael "Scott" Speicher was shot down over Iraq on the opening night of the Gulf War on 17 January 1991. He was originally considered "killed in action, body not recovered." Iraqi authorities subsequently provided a small amount of human remains they claimed to be those of Speicher. US experts determined these to be a lie. Iraq later claimed that his body was devoured by animals and no remains were found. At first, it was believed that Speicher had been killed in action.
Later, evidence found at the crash site and reports from Iraqi defectors and foreign intelligence services indicated that Speicher had survived the crash and was a prisoner of war in Iraq. In January 2001, the Navy changed his status to "missing in action," a decision the Navy said was based on an absence of evidence that he died in the crash of his plane and the lack of any satisfactory accounting of his case from the government of Iraq. In October 2002, the US classified Speicher as "captured" by Iraq. Captain Speicher would not be the first prisoner Iraq held in violation of the laws of war. It was not until April 1998 that Iraq agreed to release prisoners taken in the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq War. Some 60,000 Iranian prisoners of war languished in captivity for a decade or more before being exchanged.
The barracks where soldiers were living in at FOB Speicher once housed the students of the Iraqi Air Force Academy. Some quarters were small, modern looking houses in a row of about ten of the same like Condos. They were apparently used by the Iraqi officers stationed there. After the initial US invasion, locals looted the facilities, stealing just about anything that could be sold. When the US forces set up the initial FOB there was not much left to work with. Estimates at the time put as much as 80 percent of the buildings in major disrepair. The US military and various contractors had their work cut out for them to make Speicher into a functional FOB. The first priority for US soldiers was to clear out the tons of unexploded ordnance in the area.
489th Engineer Battalion (Corps) (Mechanized) Headquarters, a detachment from the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (including mess, communications, maintenance, and support platoons), and A Company (minus personnel to exercise AVLBs left at Camp Virginia) departed Camp Pennsylvania for Logistics Support Area (LSA) Anaconda and crossed the border into Iraq on 15 May 2003. Route of march was Camp Pennsylvania to Navistar to LSA Cedar to Convoy Support Center (CSC) Scandia to LSA Anaconda. The Battalion Headquarters, an HHC Detachment, and A Company arrived CSC Scandia at 0200 hours on 16 May 2003. The convoy departed around 0900 hours, arriving at LSA Anaconda at 1500 hours on the same day. B Company departed Camp Pennsylvania with all organic equipment and personnel (minus personnel to exercise AVLBs left at Camp Virginia) for Al Asad on 27 May 2003. The B Company mission would be in support of 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment while directly reporting to the 122nd Engineer Battalion (Corps) (Wheeled) of the South Carolina Army National Guard. All the sensitive items on a pallet lost during the movement were recovered. The pallet had been located by Chief Gonzalez with the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Sycamore (also referred to as Forward Logistics Base Sycamore) (38SLD67804069) in North Tikrit.
In May 2003, Coalition Forces assisted locals in filling craters under railroad tracks outside Camp Speicher at Tikrit to restore train movement. They continued to conduct medical treatment programs in the Iraqi community outside the city. The 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas had been tasked with providing force protection for the combat brigades of the 4th Infantry Division. They were located at Camp Speicher in Tikrit. Since there was no threat from the Iraqi Air Force, the Battalion had been doing infantry assignments. The 1-44th Air Defense Artillery was responsible for several force protection improvements at Camp Ironhorse, Camp Speicher, and around the city of Taji.
In June 2003, Lieutenant Colonel Richard Evans assumed command of the 404th Aviation Support Battalion during a ceremony at Camp Speicher, Iraq. Lieutenant Colonel Alan Stull was the departing Commander.
References to soaring eagles proliferated on 28 June 2003 at a re-opening ceremony for the Al Seccor health clinic, just outside Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. Al Seccor meant "The Eagle," or eagle village and the 4th Brigade was called the "Iron Eagle" brigade. It was not just a play on word association. The village and the Iron Eagle brigade's S-3 operations section had worked together closely since April 2003.
Its name scrawled across the top of the entrance, the "Clear Creek II PX" does not exactly resemble its supersized Fort Hood, Texas counterpart, but it became a welcome touch of good old-fashioned US commercialism, albeit military style, for US troops in Iraq. Fort Hood soldiers deployed with the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Speicher had the chance to shop for food and other basics, courtesy of the Army Air Force Exchange Service and Fort Hood Post Exchange manager Patrick McGhee. The camp, near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, had been without a store for 2 months. When McGhee arrived in May 2003, he agreed to set up a temporary exchange while he and his staff focused on readying what would be the permanent store. The store itself served more than 1,000 soldiers a day and had seen that number sometimes near 2,000. Pharris said 13th Community Support Command troops had volunteered to work in the main store, off-loading trucks and stocking shelves and running cash registers.
On 24 March 2004, the 1st Infantry Division Support Command celebrated the grand opening of the "Victory Inn" on FOB Speicher. The 1st Infanty Division Support Command (DISCOM) Commander, Colonel Paul Wentz, challenged the DISCOM Food Services Team to make their dining facility a world-class operation serving the best meals in the country for soldiers and civilians. Diners were served a delicious meal of prime rib, crab legs and fried rice. For dessert, Staff Sergeant Derwin Wesley and the Kellog, Brown, and Root (KBR) staff served 2, beautifully decorated cakes complete with the 1st Infantry Division logo. Colonel Wentz also took time to thank 2 KBR chefs for their skillfully designed, edible decorations. A team effort made this special event a genuine success.
In the summer of 2004, a rail spur between Tikrit and Speicher was opened. The 3 kilometer spur track was an offshoot of the main line, which ran between Baghdad and Mosul. The railway was able to carry the weight of 26 moving carriages, each hauling up to 65 tons. The project was mainly run by the 1st Infantry Division, who had a to do a great deal of work to open the line because most railways in Iraq had been neglected.
The rail line was immensely important for operations in Tikrit and FOB Speicher. Logistics wise, trains were better for transporting goods because of their safety and high loading capacity as opposed to the easily attacked and lighter load bearing trucks on the highway. The connection would be used to transport basic goods, water, and construction materials. The primary reason for opening the link was to allow FOB Speicher to become an industrial base. Military officials said that when Speicher became an Iraqi facility, the rail spur would be there to facilitate the progress of Iraq.
As of August 2004, the camp was home to around 6,000 soldiers.
As of 2005, contractors had paved the walkways leading into the DFAC. The FOB had gained a Subway restaurant, Burger King and Pizza Hut, located in a food court on the base for troops in Tikrit. FOB Speicher was also home to an old soccer stadium. There was a Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) facility to get on the computer or to make a telephone call. Soldiers also completed building a maintenance operational center, which was called the MOC. I was an air-conditioned building for that is located right next to the flight line.
Compared to those who live outside the wire, the soldiers at FOB Speicher had it really good. Soldiers at FOB Speicher walked around in soft caps in base though Kevlar helmets need to be worn outside the base. FOB Speicher's dining facilities were run by KBR and resembled college dorm cafeterias offering a wide choice of items. A dessert bar was also located there, offering 4 different types of Baskin Robbins ice cream.
Most senior staff officers and NCOs rode around Speicher in NTVs (Non-Tactical Vehicles), which mostly consisted of GMC Yukons and Chevy Suburbans. The renovated Iraqi barracks and specially outfitted shipping containers (CHUs) provided housing. These CHUs were used as housing for soldiers. CHUs were all wired for electricity and many had their own satellite television. The mail arrived daily at Speicher as opposed to only 2-3 times a week at outlying base camp.
KBR also ran two MWR facilities. There soldiers had use of Internet terminals, phones, big-screen TVs, PlayStation 2s, pool tables, table tennis, libraries, and a lounge area. Speicher had a couple of gym facilities as well. USO tours were known to occasionaly come to FOB Speicher. There were a few movie theaters scattered around FOB Speicher. The base also was home to a fairly large PX. The PX even contained a freezer section where frozen meats shipped directly from Germany were sold. For medical care, the base held a 32-bed hospital.
Soldiers had remarked on seeing 1,000 foot high walls of dust moves across the airfield. Although these amazing sites were not any fun to be in or especially fly in. High winds can last for hours or even days, pretty much shutting down all operations. The most rare and intense wind comes in the form of microbursts, where a sudden change of temperature causes extreme winds that could be clocked over 200 miles per hour. These winds were so powerful as they had the strength to pick helicopters up and move them a few feet, causing damage.
Winter temperatures at FOB Speicher could drop to the upper 20s and low 30s. Units had heaters for their rooms to keep their quarters warm during these cold months. During the summer, temperatures could get up to around 130+ degrees. During these swealtering months, soldiers cooled themselves with air conditioners bought from upgrade money. Battalion sized units at FOB Speicher were given $25,000 a month to use for any number of repairs and upgrades so living conditions could imporve. By most accounts this money vastly improved life on Speicher and made it one of the most comfortable bases for soldiers in Iraq. Satellite TV's for sports and movies were also located throughout the camp. There was a BX (Base Exchange), a beauty salon and spa, barber shop, cleaners/alterations, a photo ab, a bazaar, and gift shop.
On 7 April 2005, 3 members of Staff Sergeant Fowler's V3 section, Specialist Walker, Private First Class Seibert and Private Tran, suited up to install a new radio relay. Instead of it being on the ground though these soldiers had to install it on Camp Speicher's very own water tower.
In August 2005, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at FOB Speicher to mark the new Coalition headquarters at the site, the largest structure built to date for Coalition forces. The facilities were to serve as the future headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during its rotation into Iraq in late 2005. The new facility was to consist of 51,000 square feet of division headquarters for elements of the "Screaming Eagles." The original concept for the construction of the facility was based on the 1st Cavalry "D Main" at Camp Victory in Baghdad. The construction contract was awarded as a design/build task order to First Kuwaiti Contracting on 30 September 2004 for $6.9 million. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Gulf Region - North district also had construction oversight of the 6,000-square-foot Secured Compartmentalized Information Facilities.
In late July 2005, FOB Speicher had opened Add on Armor (AOA) program where various vehicles could upgrade their armor for patrol missions.
FOB Speicher became referred to more often as Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher during 2006. While US military officals had maintained that Speicher would be eventually transferred over to the Iraqis, as of March, 2006, there was no firm date on when the handover of Speicher would take place.
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