Camp Muleskinner / Muleskinner Base
Camp Rustamiyah was located at Rasheed Airbase near the Iraqi Capital Baghdad, some 6 miles southeast of Sadr City. The first facilities on its site bore the name Camp Muleskinner (also referred to as Muleskinner Base) and had been constructed in 2003. In 2004, the facilities were renamed first Camp Cuervo and then Camp Rustamiyah. Also, the area initially occupied by the aviation elements of 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment was for a time referred to as Redcatcher Field or Camp Redcatcher, named for the former call signs of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment's aviators.
Camp Muleskinner was initially home to part of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The DFAC (dining facility) at Camp Muleskinner was also called the KBR, as it was built and operated by the company Kellogg, Brown and Root. The 411th Civil Affairs Battalion was based there. It was also home for the support units of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The name comes from the days when the cavalry sometimes had to eat their own mules to survive. The 411th Civil Affairs Battalion was first based at the Canal Hotel compound, where UN headquarters was, but was the target of 2 bombings and relocated.
The 2nd Cavalry Regimental Change of Command occurred in Baghdad on 18 June at 0700 hours at Muleskinner Base adjacent to Redcatcher Field in a little soccer field at the old Iraqi Republican Guard Training Facility. This area was subsequently occupied by the 4th and Regimental Support Squadrons, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment; 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry; and 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry.
Muleskinner Base was designated as one of the enduring US compounds that was to remain in Iraq. The soldiers in every troop of the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment had worked very hard and diligently in extremely hot weather to ensure that the new and upcoming base was well suited for all that lived on in compound. The quality of life had improved greatly as all of the work areas and soldiers living areas now have air-conditioning. The shower trailers were complete and ready for operation and there were trash dumpsters located around work and living areas. There was weight room underway and an internet cafe allowing soldiers more access to communicate with love ones back home. The new consolidated dining facility that was being operated by Kellogg, Brown, and Root served its first meal on 21 August 2003. It provided a great steak and lobster meal for all to enjoy.
As the soldiers of 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment began their seventh month of work in Baghdad in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, precious but important time was taken to identify the Non Commissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year for 2003. Starting on 16 September 2003, the 3-day event tested the nominated soldiers in a number of events. The competition took place at one of the base camps in Baghdad, Camp Muleskinner. The competition began with a timed 5 kilometer ruck march around the aviation squadron's facilities at Camp Redcatcher. At the finish line, with barely any time to recover from the grueling ruckmarch, was a mystery event waiting for the competing soldiers. They knew there was an event, but did not know what it would entail. As it turned out, the event was a weapons assemble/disassemble station. The conclusion of this event signaled the end of the first day's competition. The winners were announced on the evening of 18 September 2003.
On 9 January 2004, the Iraq Civil Defense Corps Academy at Camp Muleskinner graduated its first class of guardsmen on Redcatcher Field. The ICDC School, run by noncommissioned officers and soldiers from the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 2nd Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, put newly recruited individuals through a rigorous 6-day course. The new ICDC recruits ate, slept, and trained on the academy grounds, staying fully immersed in the military environment under the watchful eyes of the cadre.
During the 140 hours spent at the ICDC Academy, the students learned a myriad of tasks from basic rifle marksmanship to traffic control point operations. The new students arrived to the camp wide-eyed and full of anxiety. As they received their uniforms, one could clearly see the seeds of pride being sown. Brand new AKM assault rifles, still with plastic covers on them, were issued to each student. Smiles and excited words were exchanged by the new ICDC recruits about how they looked with their new uniforms on. The students were introduced to calling cadence, executing orders while marching and keeping in step. As the week progressed, the cadence calling was turned over to the students. During basic rifle marksmanship training, the students were taught how to load, charge, fire, and clear their weapons. The students went through a myriad of firing stances from standing to prone.
Upon graduation the new soldiers were very proud of themselves, what they had accomplished, and what they would accomplish. They were feeling like soldiers and looking like soldiers, but most importantly, after 6 days of training, they were acting like soldiers.
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 is for the camps to last five to 10 years," said Colonel Lou Marich, commander of the 1st Armored Division 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. In Al-Rastimiya, the former Iraqi officers war college sits on what troops called Camp Muleskinner. About 2,100 US troops were to share the base with the new Iraqi army.
Camp Muleskinner was renamed Camp Cuervo in honor of a fallen trooper on 1 April 2004. Private First Class Ray D. Cuervo of A Troop, 1st Squadron, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment was killed-in-action during a combat reconnaissance patrol in Baghdad, on 28 December 2003. "Today we are here to pay tribute in honor of Pfc. Ray D. Cuervo, a fallen hero who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving here," said Lieutenant Colonel John P. Curran, Regimental Support Squadron commander. Lieutenant Colonel Mark E. Calvert, the 1st Squadron Commander and Colonel Brad May, the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment Commander, also paid tribute to Cuervo's memory. "It's fitting today that we pay tribute to Pfc. Ray D. Cuervo - a soldier, a hero - by renaming this camp after him and his actions here in Baghdad," Calvert said. "This is a tribute that will serve as a reminder to all, of his service and of his sacrifice for the security of our nation - and our world." Calvert said Cuervo developed a sense of responsibility for passing along his knowledge and experience. He shared his cavalry scout skills with Iraqi Civil Defense Corps soldiers. "Cuervo was one of many soldiers serving a cause greater than one's self," Calvert said. "A cause that often demands great personal sacrifice and, in Ray's case, the ultimate sacrifice." During the ceremony, a marble pyramid was unveiled in Cuervo's honor, officially declaring the camp "Camp Cuervo" in memory of the fallen cavalry scout.
Eight civilians and 4 Iraqi police officers were killed 13 June 2004 in a car bombing outside Camp Cuervo, a joint US-Iraqi military base in eastern Baghdad. Twelve people were injured in the attack.
In an urban landscape like Baghdad, a place peppered with a variety of cars, buildings, people, and animals under the ever-present sheen of neon lighting, the tracked monster that is an M1A2 Abrams tank does not make for the most inconspicuous or mobile of vehicles. So when the tankers of White Platoon, "Cobra" Company of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division left the gates of Camp Cuervo the night of 29 July 2004 to patrol their sector in north-eastern Baghdad, they decidedly left their Abrams' behind them. Instead, White Platoon rolled-out in its more mobile, but still quite noticeable up-armored humvees. It was not long however, before they came to a stop, parked the vehicles, and threw open their doors to begin tge part of the patrol that was usually left to the Infantry: the foot patrol.
By mid-2004, Camp Cuervo was home to 4 2-story barrack facilities, built at a cost of $2 million, each of which was composed of rooms equipped with air conditioning, beds, and wall lockers and could house 2 soldiers each. These were to be eventually equipped with a flat panel commputer connected to the Internet. A carpeted dayroom, located on the ground floor, was equipped with a big screen TV with a satellite service connection, a pool table, couches, as well as other comforts. Both floors of each building had a large restroom with 8 showers, sinks, and toilets. These other barracks were initially intended to house soldiers from 2-8th Cavalry and 1-15th Cavalry from Fort Hood, Texas as they began their deployment.
Camp Cuervo was also equipped with a small PX, a dining facility, a laundry facility, a 24/7 internet cafe, a kick boxing/aerobic room, and 2 restaurants, one of which had become famous for its fresh fruit smoothies, while the other served "cookouts", including baked fish or lamb kabob. Both restaurants served local cuisine along with American favorites such as pizza, hot dogs, burgers, and fries. The 24/7 internet cafe fielded 22 computers, while allowing individual, personal laptop connectivity and was staffed by 2 civilians. Internet usage there was limited to 30 minutes.
Camp Cuervo was also home to the Camp Cuervo Detention Facility. Surrounded by 2 chain-link fences with strands of razor wire, the detention facility served as an initial processing and detention center with detainees being deemed of having taken part in anti-coalition activities being kept there for additional periods of time before being transferred to the Abu Ghraib Prison. The detention facility, a converted indoor pistol range, was located on the back portion of Camp Cuervo and consisted of an air-conditioned building with 24 cells, each capable of housing 2 detainees. Ceiling fans were located over each cell, while each cell held a bunk bed. A hot-and-cold shower facility was located directly ourside the front of the building. The new Camp Cuervo Detention Facility replaced an old detention facility located on the back side of Camp Cuervo. That back half of the camp was, as of mid-July 2004, due to be handed back to the New Iraq Army. Additional security was reportedly provided by contractors, said to be former members of the South African Army, and these personnel would be tasked with securing that part of the camp.
In mid-September 2004, as part of an Army-wide renaming of its facilities around Baghdad with friendlier connotations, Camp Cuervo was renamed Camp Rustamiyah.
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