Najaf Army Ammunition Depot
On 22 June 2003 Forty people were killed when looters accidentally started a fire in the Najaf ammunition depot. The looters were trying to steal large quantities of brass shell cases. As they were emptying the shells there was an explosion which set the depot on fire.
By September 2003 the Najaf Army Ammunition Depot was one of several dozen that coalition forces acknowledged were not secured or destroyed, leaving the munitions vulnerable to theft. An investigation by the US was lacunched to discover whether Iraqi guards at the depot in central Iraq were bribed to allow scavengers access to the more than 100 bunkers packed with munitions. Since the bombing of the Najaf shrine, security was supplemented with American patrols.
Camp Duke / FOB Duke / Forward Operating Base Duke
Camp Duke is located about 20km northwest of Najaf, Iraq. From the camp's perimeter the horizon in any given direction is an infinite of desert: a flat, dry and dusty wasteland. In the middle of that wasteland, near the city of An Najaf, lies Forward Operating Base Duke.
Though seemingly desolate, there is a purpose to the location of FOB Duke. With 1ID elements already there, it was a secure place to come to. In 2003, the engineers tackled construction projects in Baghdad. Then the the 203rd Combat Engineer Battalion (Heavy), a Missouri Army National Guard unit, started working in the cities of An Najaf, Al Kut and Al Diwania.
As of mid-April 2004 was home to the headquarters of Fort Polk, LA, based 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, an element of Task Force 1st Armored Division. The "Dragoons" assumed control of the former Iraqi army ammunition depot from the 1st Infantry Division's 3rd Brigade, which moved north for another mission. FOB Duke was only a temporary staging area until forces can move to another base closer to the city. Elements of the regiment soon began moving out, the Army was building to expedited standards, not setting up permanent structures.
There will always be a military presence on the base to guard the tons of unexploded munitions that surrounds the base while demolition teams blow it up. A "city in the sand" was being erected to house approximately 2,400 Soldiers. The camp came with all of the amenities - showers, port-a-johns and a dining facility. In only two weeks, the quality of life for Soldiers living on FOB Duke was vastly improved. When they first got to FOB Duke, there were no showers or anything like that. There were long lines for the few port-a-johns. Soon they had showers, and could wash clothes.
While the life support area was under construction, some soldiers were still living out of their vehicles. Tents were rapidly set up, additional port-a-johns were brought in and within a week and a military kitchen trailer was set up to serve one hot meal a day. Additionally, the Soldiers had access to free sodas and Gatorade.
The 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit assumed operational control of Najaf and Qadisiyah provinces from the U.S. Army during a ceremony at Forward Operating Base Duke 31 July 2004. The Marines are now part of the Polish-led Multinational Division Central South. They will focus on combat operations; training, equipping and building leadership in the Iraqi security forces; and conducting civil-military operations in their area of responsibility south of Baghdad. The 11th MEU forces are operating from three bases outside the major cities of Najaf and Diwaniyah and one air station west of Baghdad.
Since FOB Duke is so isolated it rarely receives mortar fire or insurgent attacks and is considered one of the safest bases in Iraq.
Soldiers live in 10-man air-conditoned tents and have a personal 8 by 10 feet area of space. The desert location means that the base is very dusty which often proves annoying to live with and in keeping weapons clean. Soldiers also at Duke have to contend with extremely oppressive desert heat (with summer temperatures topping 135 degrees Fahrenheit) as well as the occasional sandstorm. Soldiers on base also have to deal with a large population of flies and beetles who also call FOB Duke home.
FOB Duke has a gym, a television area with a collection of DVDs, videotapes and books. There is also a base softball field as well as dance and exercise classes. Food on base is said to be good and is prepared by Army cooks.
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