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JB Balad wraps up operations

by Senior Airman Chuck Broadway
9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force/Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq Public Affairs

11/14/2011 - JOINT BASE BALAD, Iraq (AFNS) -- What was once a bustling hub for U.S. operations in Iraq has now transitioned into a quiet and empty shell of its former self.

In accordance with a 2008 security agreement between the U.S. and Iraq, Joint Base Balad was transitioned to the government of Iraq and the U.S. military presence has vanished.

Brig. Gen. Kurt Neubauer, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander, said he was extremely satisfied with the work Airmen at JB Balad have done with transitioning the base while maintaining operations until the final days.

"I'm most proud of the way our Airmen at the 332nd AEW rose to the challenge of dealing with combat operations while simultaneously being agile enough to thin out capabilities," Neubauer said. "We've turned JB Balad over to the Iraqis in good working order and that was inspirational."

The transition was an eight-month operation that included many base entities.

"The closure has created a supportive mission between squadrons," said Lt. Col. Terry Walter, the 332nd Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron commander. "You can't take any piece of the base away without affecting another part of the mission."

As part of the transition, the 332nd ECES moved more than 400 short tons of generators and construction equipment. More than 1,000 vehicles and 12,000 pieces of computer equipment were also redistributed.

"This was a centerpiece to the transition out of Balad," said 1st Lt. Nate Kane, the 332nd Expeditionary Communications Squadron officer in charge of transition logistics. "All the pieces of equipment that made the communications footprint function transitioned through here."

Kane said equipment such as computers, printers, scanners, monitors and telephones were all sent to other U.S. Central Command installations for further use.

In addition to redistributing communications equipment, JB Balad Airmen at the 332nd Expeditionary Logistics Readiness Squadron processed all vehicles on base as part of the transition.

"Like any other equipment, the base cannot transition without these vehicles being transferred to the Iraqi government or shipped out to one of 30 deployed locations," said Senior Master Sgt. Eric Lorow, the 332nd ELRS vehicle maintenance superintendent.

According to Lorow, all vehicles were given a four-hour inspection to check for function capabilities and ensure they were both mechanically and cosmetically serviceable.

"We had people here until the last day," Lorow said. "The Iraqi government didn't want to come into a junkyard and we made sure that didn't happen."

During the course of the U.S. operations in Iraq, JB Balad provided top cover for U.S. and coalition forces. F-16 Fighting Falcons, C-130 Hercules, MC-12 Liberties, HH-60 rescue helicopters and MQ-1B Predator remotely piloted vehicles all once called JB Balad home. It was the second largest installation in Iraq and housed the Air Force Theater Hospital, which boasted a 98 percent survival rate for the more than 35,000 U.S. troops who were treated here.

"Over the course of the more than eight years at JB Balad, Airmen have done something very special and worthy," Neubauer said. "There were some very challenging circumstances to overcome here, and I want our countrymen to appreciate the sacrifices of our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines and be proud of them."

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