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Air Force recognizes historical name of Iraqi air base

by Capt. David Small
U.S. Central Command Air Forces Forward Public Affairs

7/5/2005 - SOUTHWEST ASIA (AFPN) -- What’s in a name? In the case of Ali Base, years of history.

Ali Base, situated near the city of An Nasiriyah, in south central Iraq, is the main airfield in southern Iraq from which Iraqi, coalition and U.S. Airmen operate. Until January, coalition forces called the base Tallil. Now, all use the legacy name: Ali Base.

“Our Iraqi partners have always referred to this installation as Ali Base,” said Col. Dennis Diggett, former 407th Air Expeditionary Group commander at the base.

“It appears that sometime after Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s, Ali Base was incorrectly labeled ‘Tallil’ on Department of Defense maps,” said Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, U.S. Central Command Air Forces commander. “It’s a bit of a mystery. We don’t know why that was done.”

The discrepancy came to light in January at a joint ceremony where Iraqi and coalition forces stood up the 23rd Squadron, the new Iraqi air force’s C-130 Hercules unit there.

“As part of the 23rd Squadron activation ceremony, Maj. Gen. Kamal Abdul Satar Al-Barazenchi, chief of staff of the Iraqi air force, unveiled a new sign: Ali Base. We learned then that the base had always been Ali,” General Buchanan said. “In fact, we learned that General Kamal himself had even been the Ali Base commander during part of the Iran-Iraq War.”

General Buchanan said he looks on that day as a milestone in the cooperation between the U.S. Air Force and the new Iraqi air force.

“It was a great day for our partnership. We assisted Iraq by giving them three C-130s and committing to training Iraqi pilots, navigators and (maintainers) so they can in turn work to secure stability for their own country,” the general said. “I thought it was a great sign of our mutual respect that General Kamal and his staff were willing to tell us about our oversight.”

General Buchanan then directed Airmen to call Ali Base by its legacy name.

Because Tallil had become the commonplace name used by Airmen but was never its official name, there was no need to take any official act to rename it Ali Base, CENTAF officials said. Coordination is under way with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to incorporate the revision into future charts and maps.

“Ali Base has a history that is important to the local Iraqi community, and as coalition partners, it is important we respect that,” General Buchanan said.

Built in the 1970s and serving as the busiest military airfield during Iraq’s war with Iran in the 1980s, it is now home to the 407th Air Expeditionary Group, the Iraqi air force’s 23rd Squadron, and the U.S. Army’s Logistics Support Areas Cedar and Adder.

When the 1991 Gulf War occurred, the airfield was heavily bombed and virtually destroyed. Ultimately, the base became off limits to Iraqi forces while U.S. and British patrols enforced the no-fly zone over southern Iraq.

Airmen in air and space expeditionary force rotations with Ali Base as an endpoint can expect some confusion concerning the name change, officials said. No money will be spent to correct institutional discrepancies between the two names, having erred in calling it Tallil for so long, CENTAF officials said.

Some of these institutional discrepancies include e-mail on the global address list, administrative codes, phone books and directories. Many of these things have already been corrected here, but may be slow to change throughout the rest of the Air Force.

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