Camp Falcon / Camp Al-Saqr
Camp Falcon (also known as Camp Al-Saqr) was located at Rasheed Airbase near the Iraqi Capital Baghdad. The first facilities to bear the name had been constructed in 2003 as Camp Falcon, also referred to as Forward Operating Base (FOB) Falcon. The facilities had also been known as Camp Loyalty. The facilities had subsequently been renamed Camp Ferrin-Huggins, before being renamed back to Camp Falcon in late 2004, at which time it also gained the Arabic name Camp Al-Saqr. Camp Falcon uses multilayered defenses with high-walled perimeters and lookout towers to deter any threat. Like any military fortification, however, the gate relied heavily on manpower, both US and Iraqi manpower. Soldiers back at Camp Falcon needed to be in full uniform and body armor before they left their buildings because of mortar fire.
The associated Camp Graceland was the US National Guard side of Camp Falcon. It was a United States Military installation that housed the 2175th Military Police Company's quarters; Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 168th Military Police Battalion Batallion, and was located 20 minutes south of downtown Baghdad, Iraq, right off Highway 8.
In late September 2003, one major project for the 439th Engineer Battalion was the construction of Camp Falcon. The Battalion delivered over 100,000 tons of gravel for the roads, and assisted with building the roads, walls, guard towers, and buildings for the camp. They also finished repairing a compound for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, the Iraqi equivalent of the US National Guard. The 439th Engineer Battalion worked with many Iraqi contractors and vendors who were employed by the Army to help rebuild the country. The water and irrigation systems continued to improve, although much work was still needed and sometimes progress seems slow by late 2003 and into early 2004. The engineers work was toward the construction of Camp Falcon as a permanent Forward Operating Base (FOB).
By late September 2003, the dining facility had opened. As a result, all of the soldiers could have a hot breakfast and a hot supper. Depending on the missions, a lot of days the soldiers actually got 3 hot meals. The 439th Engineer Battalion also had finished repairing a compound for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The Engineers had refurbished a number of buildings within the compound and added a force protection wall on the west side of the compound. Six new barracks were approximately 40 percent complete and the engineers had started paving some new roads leading into the camp and also within the camp. The internet cafes had opened so the soldiers had a more reliable connection to the rest of the world and their families. Unfortunately, the telephone service the soldiers had been using had degraded badly. It was still a few of months until the soldiers would have real barracks with real beds and mattresses, but the buildings were going up. The living conditions were slightly better at Camp Falcon in Iraq than they were at similar sized facilities in Afghanistan. The Army's barracks included a full mess, high-speed Internet access, and Armed Forces television. Other projects in the area of water and sewerage also continued and the engineers were doing additional work on the compound for the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps.
In December 2003, paratroopers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division began Jumpmaster Refresher Courses, Jumpmaster Pretests, and Air Movement Operations Courses at Camp Falcon. The classes were being conducted at the forward operating base in southern Baghdad to prepare the Brigade for redeployment and assumption of their mission back at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in early 2004. The Brigade was part of Task Force 1st Armored Division.
The 1st Armored Division Artillery accepted authority of the Al Rashid district in southern Baghdad from 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, during a transfer of authority ceremony at Camp Falcon on 23 January 2004. The Division Artillery Combat Team looked forward to working with the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, specifically the 504th Battalion and A Company, 36th Battalion, which called Camp Falcon home.
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, were to improve living quarters for soldiers and allow the military to return key infrastructure sites within the Iraqi capital Baghdad to the emerging government. Plans called for the camps to last between 5-10 years, possibly even longer. Moving to the outskirts of town would allow Iraqi police and the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps to take a lead role in the city's security. At Camp Falcon, on the southern outskirts, a base camp for 5,000 was planned.
The 1st Cavalry Division's 5th Brigade (Provisional) assumed the mission of securing Baghdad's Al Rashid District from the 1st Armored Division's Division Artillery at a transfer-of-authority ceremony on 6 April 2004. Colonel Stephen Lanza was commander of the 5th Brigade (Provisional), the "Red Team." Since arriving in Iraq a year ago, the 1st Armored's Division Artillery Combat Team had completed a number of different missions. The DIVARTY Combat Team, the 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery Regiment, and the 1st Battalion, 4th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, led the force protection package at Baghdad International Airport. Later, the unit set up a counter-battery center to combat the mortar and rocket fire into the airport and 1st Armored Division's headquarters. In January 2004, they moved to Forward Operating Base Falcon. The 1st Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment and Task Force 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment were later added to the DIVARTY Combat Team and assumed responsibility of the city's Al Rashid District.
Iraq proved to be a strange place for most soldiers. From the hot, dry heat to the ever-present dust that settled everywhere. The day in the life of a deployed troop does not always include all the right ingredients to make him comfortable, but luckily there were always some things he could do to make himself feel more at home. There sometimes was a special area he could go to enjoy his worldly pastimes. It might be the basketball court: possibly the Internet cafe, or perhaps a quick snack at Subway. Some places of recreation were found in less likely areas. One such area lay outside in a corner of the Headquarters Company barracks next to the 5th Brigade Combat Team headquarters on Camp Ferrin Huggins. An I-beam lay on the cracked asphalt with its edges coated in wax. A dismounted handrail put in place by sandbags stood 10 inches off the ground. The sight might confuse bystanders, until its architects arrived. The sun begins to set and 4 friends convene with weapons slung as they cling onto wheeled boards before slapping them on the pavement, and this assembly of random objects begins to look more like a crude excuse for a skate park.
Previous construction work at the Forward Operating Base Ferrin-Huggins site had been done fast and cheap. Soldiers later were assigned with the renovation of a series of concrete housing facilities that had been previously hurriedly constructed by the Iraqis. They were constructed so fast, in fact, that the landfill they were built on had not been properly compacted and allowed settlement time. Subsequently, after the buildings went up and weathered the rainy season, the floors gave, breaking all the water systems. The soldiers had to replace those systems, as well as restore the buildings, with Army engineers also providing input to contracting.
In mid-September 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 Ferrin-Huggins (previously Camp Falcon) reverted back to its previous name, with the Arabic translation "Camp Al-Saqr".
As of late December 2004, Camp Falcon was also home to a spacious Post Exchange (PX). For Thanksgiving 2004, meals were provided for 3,000 by Camp Falcon's canteen and kitchen staff.
On 10 October 2006, at approximately 10:40 PM, a 82mm mortar round, fired by militia forces from a residential area in Abu T-Shir, caused a fire at an Ammunition Supply Point (ASP) at FOB Falcon. The ASP, containing tank and artillery rounds, in addition to smaller caliber ammunition, set off a series of large explosions. About 100 troops from the 4th Infantry Division were reported to be stationed at the base at the time, but no injuries were reported.
During their time at Camp Falcon, Assault and Obstacle Platoon of Company B, 8th Engineer Battalion, 1st Cavalry Division 'enjoyed' much on-the-job training. A prime example was the installation of a sewage system, a task usually taken on by civilians or combat-heavy engineers. "We've been working this sewage system for a month," Bronx, New York, native Staff Sgt. Greg Grady explained. "We are all combat engineers and this is outside of our job description. I just happen to have civilian experience in surveying. We came out here and did it all. We surveyed the land, I drew out the plans." The sewage pipeline was to allow the entire camp access to Baghdad's main sewage grid, eliminating the need for the existing septic tank system, as well as the cost that came with periodical pumping. With a total of 7 weeks work, the pipe system was expected to be complete late January 2005.
The project was just one of many the Assault and Obstacle Platoon had taken on from Forward Operating Base Falcon's base operations. The platoon built and demolished walls, supervised the construction of barracks, and made an array of other structures on post. However, from time to time to the soldiers had to indulge in the job they joined the Army for. "Once we are done with this we will go on to something else. Maybe back to patrols," Grady said. "We don't mind doing the patrols. Infantry is like second nature to us."
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