For 15 years, most Iraqis had been unable to access the heart of Baghdad. But the tall concrete walls and barbed wire that have closed off the Green Zone for years are finally coming down. The Green Zone, a 10 square kilometre area in central Baghdad, has been partially open to the public since 10 December 2018 for a two-week trial period that was likely to become permanent. Cars are now allowed to traverse the area from 5pm to 1am along the 14th of July Road, a key thoroughfare that extends from the 14th July Bridge - also known as the hanging bridge - and connects the city's east and west. However, side roads where Iraqi officials are based remain closed and government buildings and foreign missions continue to be under heavy security and surveillance. With two of the capital's key thoroughfares - Haifa Street and 14th of July Boulevard - traversing the Green Zone, the reopening has reduced some of Baghdad's heavy road congestion.
The International Zone (formerly known as the Green Zone) was the heavily guarded diplomatic/government area of closed-off streets in central Baghdad where US occupation authorities live and work. The Green Zone in the central city includes the main palaces of former President Saddam Hussein. The area houses the civilian ruling authority run by the Americans and British and the offices of major US consulting companies.
The precise boundries of the "Green Zone" were difficult to determine, and indeed may change with time. The core of the Green Zone appears to be Hussein's former presidential complex.
The International Zone was commonly referred to as the "Ultimate Gated Community" due to the numerous armed checkpoints, coils of razor wire, chain link fences, and the fact it was surrounded by "T-Walls" (reinforced and blast-proof concrete slabs).
Part of the International Zone was said to have been "Uday's Playground" comprised of the Presidential Palace (now the U.S. Embassy Annex); numerous villas for Saddam's family, friends and former Baath party loyalists; an underground bunker (Believers Palace); the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Military History Museum; the new Baath party headquarters (unfinished); the Al-Rasheed Hotel; the Convention Center; and a large park including the much photographed crossed sabers and parade route. The International Zone was also home to Saddam's man-eating lions, which have since been moved to the Iraqi National Zoo.
Due to the numerous Iraqi Interim Government entities occupying space within the Zone, traffic and population has increased. There was a taxi service supported by the Iraqis working within the International Zone. Also, several independent local shops, including an Iraqi flea market provide an array of international and local Iraqi goods.
Contrary to popular belief, the International Zone was lush and tropical with very little humidity. The area was garnished with world-class date producing palms, various fruit and other exotic trees.
The 14th of July Bridge reopened for the first time since the fall of Saddam's regime after a ribbon-cutting ceremony held 25 October 2003. The 14th of July Bridge serves as a major transportation artery which allows access to the northwestern part of Baghdad. Curiously, nobody thought of changing its name, which celebrates the inception of Baathist rule. Baghdad 's first suspension bridge links the Karkh and Karadah districts on the north and south side of Baghdad. It was damaged during the first Gulf War, but was never repaired by the former regime. Realizing it was unsafe for use, Coalition forces closed the bridge when they entered Baghdad in April 2003. The newly repaired bridge will alleviate traffic build-up and allow drivers a direct route across the Tigris River. When the bridge was closed, people had to spend an extra twenty minutes to drive around the river. A bomb attack in central Baghdad on 13 November 2003 prompted the coalition to close the Bridge. The 14th of July Street (Arbataash Tamuz Street) which runs over the 14th of July Bridge (Arbataash Tamuz Bridge) runs between the Presidential Palace and the New Presidential Palace, both of which were in use by the Coalition Provisional Authority. Closing the Bridge would seal a potential point of access into the heart of the Green Zone.
The Green Zone -- also called "The Bubble" - was the hub of the vision for the New Iraq. It was almost self-sufficient, and staff working there can be treated in the compound's hospital or run safely in its grounds. When they leave, it was by armored car with an armed military escort.
The Convention Center was where the United States set up headquarters, and was also home to the coalition press office. The state-of-the-art hall was in the same Green Zone as the Republican Palace. Once used by the fallen regime for conferences, it was home to a highly visible collection of troops, some of whom live in an office that has been converted to barracks.
The Iraqi Governing Council was headquartered in the handsome marble building that once was the Military Industry Ministry run by Saddam's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. The new Iraqi Ministry of Justice has decided to use the Adnan Buildingg, which was within the Green Zone, instead of the Clock Tower Building, for the Central Criminal Court and the Supreme Court.
The Green Zone was defended with coils of razor wire, chain-link fences, earthen berms and armed checkpoints. The area was defended by M1 Abrams tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and HUMVEEs with .50 caliber machine guns on top. The Green Zone appears under siege, with barriers, high concrete walls and checkpoints. US officials are rarely visible outside it, and rules for British personnel bar them from leaving it unless accompanied by four bodyguards and an armored vehicle.
Iraqis and foreign diplomats have been critical of occupation officials, who they say were isolated within the Green Zone and un-informed about life elsewhere in Baghdad, an area that official US security jargon calls "the Red Zone." Being in the Green Zone in Baghdad provides a limited possibility to meet regular Iraqi people. Americans were walling themselves in, mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.
In an analysis on 01 September 2003 ["After Najaf: The Emerging Patterns of Combat in the Iraq War"] Anthony H. Cordesman stated that "a critical mistake [was] made by ORHA and carried on by the CPA by creating US security zones around US headquarters in central Baghdad. This has created a no go zone for Iraqis and has allowed the attackers to push the US into a fortress that tends to separate U.S. personnel from the Iraqis. This follows a broader pattern where terrorist know that attacks tend to push the US into locating in "force protection" enclaves and cut Americans off from the local population."
By late 2003 much of the huge US military presence in Baghdad was out of sight at the airport and in other encampments.
In September 2003 US officials said they planned to reopen parts of the Green Zone to civilian traffic in October 2003 to reduce the zone's disruption to Baghdad's traffic. But this step would make security even more difficult for top US officials here.
On 27 September 2003 guerrillas struck at the heart of the US occupation, firing three rockets or grenades at a Baghdad hotel filled with American soldiers and civilians. Only one actually hit the hotel and did minimal damage and no one was hurt. The attack on the al-Rashid Hotel, home to US military officers and civilian occupation officials came at about 6:30 AM. The 200-foot-tall hotel stands hundreds of yards from the high, earth-filled barriers ringing that section of the zone. The green zone was still the safest area in Baghdad, and until this incident there had no shooting incidents or attacks on any personnel in this area.
Camp Dragoon / FOB Iron Horse
Camp Patriot (Camp Watani)
The Vipers were the driving force at Camp Dragoon in improving living conditions. The shower trailers, with heated water and air conditioning, were now up and operational as of 27 August. The soldiers of RHHT, working together with local contractors, expect an indoor swimming pool to be complete by mid September. The pool will contain a whirlpool and be heated. A full service laundry operation was also in the works. In keeping with the motto of the Regiment, RHHT was "Always Ready" to make things easier for all at Camp Dragoon.
It was not the biggest retail outlet in Baghdad, but by September 2003 soldiers wearing every unit patch in the city had shopped at Camp Dragoon's CavMart. Set up in a former Iraqi Army weapons storeroom, the CavMart boasts shelves stocked with health-care items, personal hygiene supplies, batteries, soft drinks and snacks. Camp Dragoon's 900-soldier population makes it too small for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service to set up a retail outlet. Instead, the exchange works with units to support smaller, soldier-managed stores in outlying camps. Soldiers run the stores, pick up merchandise and manage the money.
Since the 502d Military Intelligence Company detached from Wolfpack they have been with RHHT and have been continuously conducting collection missions. Just like 'Wolfpack Base Camp', 'Camp Dragoon' (as they call their camp) was lacking in creature comforts at first. Slowly the area has improved. The glass in the windows has been replaced. They now have a small PX, and air conditioning in most rooms, including an air-conditioned movie theatre where they play DVD movies mostly every evening. In addition, they have an Internet café and a satellite phone that was available each day. The great soldiers of the 502d have rallied together to make it through tough times.
As Operation Iraqi freedom progressed through its seventh month, the U.S. Army worked toward improving living conditions for the troops in Iraq. One of the newest projects completed by late October 2003 was a dining facility recently opened at the 3rd Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment forward operating base, Baghdad. The new dining facility also serves nearby soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division and attached personnel, such as civil affairs units. It was amazing how the contractors were able to get this building rolling and ready for the soldiers. Contracted by Kellogg, Brown and Root Services, the modular building was trucked into the area in sections and pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle. The facility has a seating capacity of 500 with a turnaround capacity to serve 2,000 personnel for breakfast, lunch or dinner. KBR worked astonishingly hard to provide a great meal. Unlike the dining facility at nearby Al Rasheed Hotel, which has its meals delivered from the Coalition Provisional Authority palace dining facility, the 2nd ACR facility has its own kitchen and culinary crew contracted through KBR. The facility has food items such as bread, muffins and pastries prepared and served daily.
At Camp Dragoon, troops seemed to particularly enjoy taking advantage of Saddam's massive personal infrastructure to make life more comfortable. In Baghdad, for example, home to the headquarters of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Division, soldiers enjoy nightly movies in the world-class movie theater Saddam built for his secret police. Popcorn was free, and Sunday was double-feature day.
By late January 2004 engineers from the 1st Armored Division were midway through an $800 million project to build half a dozen camps for the incoming 1st Cavalry Division. Army planners expected to finish by 15 March 2004. The new outposts, dubbed Enduring Camps, will improve living quarters for soldiers and allow the military to return key infrastructure sites within the Iraqi capital to the emerging government, military leaders said. "The plan was for the camps to last from five to ten years," said Col. Lou Marich, commander of the 1st AD engineers. "They will last longer if we take care of them." Moving to the outskirts of town will allow Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to take a lead role in the city's security. Camp Dragoon and Camp War Eagle combined will have room for about 2,200.
Pulling guard duty was something nearly every soldier does at some point during a deployment. And, the troopers of the Air Defense Artillery Battery, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Dragoon Forward Operating Base were no exception. Whether it's standing watch in a tower, manning a gate at the forward operating base, or being part of Dragoon's quick response force, the troopers of the air defense artillery have been there.
FOB Trojan Horse
FOB Union III (FOB Al-Tawheed Al-Thalith)
The living conditions in our FOBs were getting better daily. Most of the soldiers now have beds and mattresses. There was a new DFAC on FOB Trojan. SSG Parker, from 3d Platoon (ESE) has done a great job setting that up and providing first-rate support. They expected the installation of Air Conditioners by late June 2004, and were working on new phone banks on FOB Trojan. The soldiers living in the other FOBs still have access to their phone banks to call home and commanders try to get the soldiers over to one of those from FOB Trojan as often as possible.
By August 2004, great progress had been made improving the quality of life on FOB Trojan Horse. Soldiers had a free laundry service on the FOB as well as several telephones available for as low as 10 cents a minute. All soldiers also had ready access to the internet. The consolidated Dining Facility was up and running at full speed. They had a cookout for Memorial Day. They also recently received beds for all soldiers on the FOB and have wall lockers coming in. Mail was arriving regularly and was always a great morale booster.
Camp Honor / FOB Honor
Camp Steel Dragon / FOB Steel Dragon / Camp Wolfpack
In January 2006, the Iraqi army took over control of FOB Honor from U.S. forces in another transfer of authority of U.S. bases to Iraqi control. This was the first transfer of authority within the Green Zone and increased the Iraqi forces presence and role in operations of central Baghdad.
FOB Steel Dragon was in the "Green Zone" section of Baghdad.
The 2-82 FA deployed from Fort Hood, TX on 15 March 2004. The battery spent two weeks at Camp Udari, Kuwait drawing equipment, downloading home-station vehicles and preparing for the convoy into Iraq. Our three -day move north to Baghdad, Iraq was very successful. All vehicles, equipment and soldiers arrived safely at Camp Wolfpack, now called Camp Steel Dragon, on 29 March 2004. They immediately began training with our counterparts from 3/2 Armored Cavalry Squadron (ACS) in order to take over the escort mission. Due to an unexpected change in mission for 3/2 ACS our battalion was forced to take over the escort mission sooner than expected. As usual the soldiers of Bravo Battery were fully prepared, ready, and excited to do so. Since taking over, the battery has already cycled through three weeks of conducting Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) escorts and one week of Forward Operation Base (FOB) security of Camp Steel Dragon. Additionally, the battery has recently had a change of mission. We have been tasked to provide artillery support to Camp Cook in Taji, Iraq. Two Paladin sections (12 soldiers), two mechanics, a platoon sergeant, our Fire Direction NCO, and the battery executive officer were working with the 1-206 Arkansas National Guard, a light artillery (105mm) battery, to provide artillery counter-fire against enemy mortar and rocket attacks. After 165 days in Camp Steel Dragon the Warriors had accomplished more than 561 Platoon Security Escort Missions encompassing more than 142,296 miles of driving throughout Baghdad and other locations within Iraq! Our Maintenance section was by far the most experienced in Iraq. Noone put more miles on our vehicles than the Steel Dragons and Warriors! Additionally, the Warriors have defended Camp Steel Dragon with 6 weeks of FOB Security.
As of August 2004 the 89th Military Police Brigade was at Camp Steel Dragon, Baghdad, Iraq.
In November 2004, as part of an Army-wide effort to give its facilities around Baghdad friendlier connotations, and try to resolve the issue of constantly-changing facility names, Camp Steel Dragon was renamed Camp Honor.
In January 2006, the Iraqi army took over control of FOB Honor from U.S. forces in another transfer of authority of U.S. bases to Iraqi control. This was the first transfer of authority within the Green Zone and increased the Iraqi forces presence and role in operations in central Baghdad.
FOB Blackhawk was located within the International Zone in downtown Baghdad. It was situated near the Al-Rasheed Hotel. The conference area and outside courtyard were reported to be nice. There was also an excellent outdoor bread oven that was used often.
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