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Renamed U.S. military base in Iraq reflects joint status

by 1st Lt. Lisa Spilinek
332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

6/17/2008 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFPN) -- The home of the Air Force's only wing in Iraq and the Army's logistical headquarters for supplies and shipments in the country has been renamed to reflect the dual nature of the base.

Joint Base Balad is the new name for what used to be called Balad Air Base by the Air Force and Logistics Support Area Anaconda by the Army.

The new name went into effect at midnight June 15 to coincide with the transfer of base support functions from the Army to the Air Force under the Base Operating Support Integration initiative, known as BOS-I, said Lt. Col. Pat Ryan, the 332nd Expeditionary Mission Support Group deputy commander.

"Balad is the hub for all Army logistics and is the base of choice for airpower. Being the senior airfield authority, it just makes sense for the Air Force to take the lead here," Colonel Ryan said.

With the changeover, the base's support functions, to include food service, lodging, vehicle operations, base upkeep and construction projects, as well as base defense, will now be the responsibility of Air Force units rather than Army units for the more than 30,000 servicemembers, civil servants, contractors and third country nationals who live on the base, said Colonel Ryan, who is deployed from Westover Air Reserve Base, Mass.

A transition period for the changeover has been designated to last until Nov. 15. During this time the base support functions will remain under the base's Mayor Cell while Airmen get acquainted with the specific procedures in place. Previously, the Mayor Cell, which oversees many of those life-support functions and the execution of the various government contracts in place here, reported to the Army's 316th Expeditionary Sustainment Command. Now it will fall under the Air Force's 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, said Army Lt. Col. Steven Passey, a 316th ESC engineer.

"We've been sharing information between the (Air Force) wing staff and squadrons and the Mayor Cell and ESC staff officers to identify and explain the installation and mayoral functions we had oversight of ranging from (morale, welfare and recreation), construction projects, operational (programs) and maintenance contracts," said Colonel Passey, who is deployed from the Army Reserve out of Indianapolis.

Both colonels said the goal of the changeover would be a seamless transition of authority from the Army to the Air Force to include the installation command responsibility.

Previously, the installation commander was Army Brig. Gen. Gregory Couch, the outgoing 316th ESC commander. With BOS-I, Brig. Gen. Burton M. Field, the 332nd AEW commander, is now the installation commander.

"We will continue providing the high-quality support and world-class service each Joint Base Balad organization needs for mission accomplishment," General Field said.

"This is a great opportunity for us to partner with the Air Force on a critical initiative," said Army Brig. Gen. Michael J. Lally III, the commander of the 3rd Expeditionary Sustainment Command, which will replace the 316th ESC June 20. "Everyone needs to understand that even though there has been a change in leadership, there won't be any changes to quality of life, services or the sustainment provided to all coalition forces; only improvements."

While the base defense function of Joint Base Balad will eventually be conducted by Air Force security forces Airmen, Army Soldiers will continue to be the primary executors of defense measures on the base and in the surrounding area off-base through mid-October when Airmen will arrive to replace them. In the meantime, a new 332nd Expeditionary Force Protection Group will be activated in mid-July with the arrival of the group's leadership.

"As service providers, we'll be learning to walk the walk and getting to know our customers, so that after Nov. 15 we'll be ready to meet their needs," Colonel Ryan said. "The challenge will be learning the Army (specific) intricacies -- picking up the little differences between the services and the language used."

As the Air Force assumes the mayoral duties of the base, the Army has been on hand to provide guidance along the way.

"Joint isn't just a fancy word from professional military education or on a piece of paper. I've had more meetings with the Army here in the last three weeks than in my entire career. Efficiencies are always gained when we learn from each other," Colonel Ryan said. "We'll take the Army processes, adapt them to our own core competencies and make a better product in the end."

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