Baghdad Coalition Facilities
By late 2003 recreational areas throughout Baghdad had been taken over by American forces. Baghdad's former weekend attractions -- the Martyr's Monument, the Games City theme park, the Wedding Island marriage venue and the Saddamiyat al-Tharthar were military zones. Only the zoo remained open to the public.
The Games City amusement park in Baghdad is also called Play City. The 128-acre Games City was the grandest in the Middle East when it opened in 1963. It still boasts 35 attractions, most of them imported from Europe, but sanctions have taken their toll. Games City hadn't installed any new rides since the sanctions began. Repairs were carried out with locally fashioned parts. The gondolas of the cable car have been repainted shabbily by hand, and the tracks of the four-tiered roller coaster are rusting and creaky. But with nowhere else to go, an estimated 300,000 children had packed Games City. Many of them were born after the sanctions were imposed. To them, shortages and hardships are part of life. So are the protest slogans that were embedded in the Iraqi vocabulary as the sanctions came to be seen as an act of US vindictiveness. With money saved from months of scrimping and saving as a rag-picker, in january 1999 Ra'eid Jaber took his first-ever ride on a roller coaster Monday at Baghdad's dilapidated amusement park. For the 14-year-old boy, the carefree five hours spent at Games City provided a dream start to the Eid al-Fitr, the three-day Muslim holiday of feasting that follows the dawn-to-dusk fasting of the holy month of Ramadan.
The combat engineers inside Humvees traverse the Wedding Island Bridge dozens of times to fetch their translator. The soldiers in the Humvees were members of the 40th Engineer Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division.
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. 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 is for the camps to last five to 10 years," said Col. Lou Marich, commander of the 1st AD engineers. "They will last longer if we take care of them." The largest of the new camps, Camp Victory North, will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo - currently one of the largest overseas posts built since the Vietnam War. Camp Victory North lies northeast of Baghdad International Airport, known to troops as BIAP.
Subordinate brigades and battalions were scattered on three dozen forward operating bases throughout the city. Old Ironsides fell into former Iraqi regime property taken early in the war by the 3rd Infantry Division. They lived in palaces, prisons, government buildings and amusement parks. The new camps being built around Baghdad were planned by the Base Camp Coordination Authority, a planning cell made up mostly of Army Reserve soldiers.
While Camp Victory North is the division's largest endeavor, work continued on several other camps. North of the city, about 5,000 troops will live in Taji, a former Iraqi base. To the east, camps Dragoon and War Eagle combined will have room for about 2,200. In Al-Rastimiya, the former Iraqi officers war college sits on what troops now call Camp Muleskinner. About 2,100 U.S. troops will share the base with the new Iraqi army. At Camp Falcon, on the southern outskirts, a base camp for 5,000 is planned.
Soldiers from the Fort Hood, Texas-based 1st Cavalry Division begin arriving in late January 2004 and continued to flow in through March. The transfer of authority between 1st AD and 1st Cavalry took place in mid-April 2004. The incoming soldiers will occupy the new camps.
The US Army began closing most of its bases in central Baghdad and redeploying its troops to the outskirts of the city. The new soldiers arriving from the 1st Cavalry Division moved into eight bases around Baghdad, and maintained one base in the city. The division will assume command over Baghdad on 15 April 2004. Troops patrolling the capital used armored humvees rather than tanks, in an attempt to appear less obtrusive. As of early February 2004 there were 26 US bases in the Iraqi capital, down from 60 in the summer of 2003.
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. Building new camps also allows the Army to move out of places Iraqis want back. Various ministry officials are working for the transfer of places such as the Martyr's Monument, Baghdad Island amusement park and government buildings. The moves may also improve the city's gridlock traffic. The number of cars more than doubled to 1.2 million in the past year. Removing barriers near bases within the city should help alleviate some traffic jams.
Already the Army has spent about $300 million of the overall $800 million price tag. A similar construction project in the States would take two years. Army planners expect to finish by 15 March 2004. The rush to finish the camps places a huge burden upon the Army's engineers. Yet work progressed steadily over the past few months.
By October 2004, 17 US Army facilities were reported to be located in the Baghdad area. All were affected by a mid-September 2004 decision to rename the faclities and, in the process, also give them an Arabic name.
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