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Camp Liberty
Camp Victory North
Camp al-Tahreer

The largest of the new camps, Camp Liberty, previously Camp Victory North, is twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo - one of the largest US overseas posts built since the Vietnam War. Camp Victory North lies northeast of Baghdad International Airport, known to troops as BIAP. Victory North at its full capacity will hold around 14,000 troops. As of January 2004, about 16,000 soldiers from the Germany-based 1st Armored Division lived in a makeshift camp along the south side of BIAP. 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 Victory North was renamed Camp Liberty, with its Arabic translation "Camp Al-Tahreer".

At first, the division engineers built up the camp south of the BIAP runway. In September 2003, word came down to cease construction because the airport would be returned to the Iraqi ministry of transportation. The charge was to get off BIAP by the spring and turn the airport over to civilian authority. Most of the tent cities along the runway and the Bob Hope Dining Facility will close. Only the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps will remain at the airport.

The land behind nearby Camp Victory was a former hunting reserve for Saddam Hussein. The best view is from a man-made hill created from soil removed from a man-made lake nearby, Tall reeds and palms line the roadside into the camp. Each day, seemingly endless convoys of civilian dump trucks drop off loads of gravel used to harden the wetlands.

By January 2004, several hundred mobile white-walled trailers, to be used as soldiers' living quarters, were laid out in rows, in a manner resembling a large trailer park. Each soldier would have 80 square feet of living space. Rooms inside the trailers were to be approximately 4m2 large, oufitted with a small window, equipped with two beds, a table and lamp, a closet, and be air-conditioned. Between the two rooms, within each trailer, soldiers would share a shower, sink and toilet. The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has built two structures, each larger than a circus tent. Kellogg Brown & Root workers also have a slice of the camp. They will continue to provide soldiers with food, morale programs and base maintenance.

About 100 Missouri National Guard troops from the 203rd Engineer Battalion built the first of seven headquarters buildings. But they were making slow progress on the long wooden structures, known to troops as SEAhuts. Some problems later persisted: doors ordered for the project didn't fit frames, insulation was cut to the wrong size, and some concrete blocks crumbled. The lumber used for the construction came mostly from Germany and Canada while the electrical supplies came from all over. Most of the time, metric measurements had to be converted to standard.

Compared to other Army installations in the Baghdad area, Camp Victory North was relatively new, and was still under development as of March 2004. At that time, soldiers there wishing to take advantage of services such as a larger PX or full postal service meant having to hop on the shuttle to Camp Victory South. As construction continued, soldiers in Victory North found less need to bus it to a different location, and some troops from other installations found it advantageous to shuttle to Victory North.

The Army has a lot of troops to accommodate; this means the largest PX in Iraq. It will have a food court, barber shop and there will be a number of local vendors outside of it. The new PX opened on the 15 April 2004, and there was later a report of a Burger King. Though some may agree that the current dining facilities on Victory North are sufficient, new ones are under construction. The new chow hall at the Camp Blackjack section of Victory North dwarfs the old by all dimensions, and was operational on 29 March 2004.

In addition to the new PX and chow halls, Victory North has a number of other facilities. The three sections of Victory North, Camp Blackjack, West Life Support Area (LSA), and Division LSA, all have their own mayor cell.

By May 2004, each had a new chapel, Moral Recreation and Welfare building, PX shoppette, barber shop, internet caf, gym and more. Most of these facilities initially existed in some form, but the new facilities were more permanent and much larger. Also under construction were basketball courts and volleyball arenas in each section of Victory North. Many of these projects were proposed by units who stayed on the installation.

As of June 2004, Gulf Catering Co. was reported to be the contractor in charge of catering the thrice-daily meals to soldiers stationed at Camp Victory North, inside a massive air-conditioned and new dining facility equipped with two wide-screen televisions.

In addition to the new MWR activities and buildings, Victory North continues to improve the perimeter, demolishing unoccupied buildings near guard towers as well as building more roads on the inside. Camp Victory North has come a long way from how it was months ago, and it continues to improve every day as several projects are under construction to help make life better for the troops who call it home.

Members of the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate began occupying the new Camp Victory North Legal Services Center and Courthouse in June 2004. The new building comes complete with a courtroom and enough office space for the Military Justice, Administration, Legal Assistance, and Claims sections. The Operational Law and Detainment Operations sections are housed in the new 1st Cavalry Division Headquarters building, which, as of early-June 2004, was near completion.

Camp Al-Tahreer is a sprawling base camp that looks like a perpetual construction site. Loose gravel lines the path between long rows of dusty white trailers. The trailers provide a place for Soldiers to crash for a few hours of rest before they have to go back out: to patrol, to a civil affairs project or to the task the war on terrorism will demand of them that day.

Hundreds of soldiers gathered outside the post exchange at Camp Al Tahreer to see their favorite celebrities perform during the Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff Handshake Tour on 14 December 2004. The event was sponsored by the United Service Organizations and hosted a handful of entertainers like comedians Robin Williams and Blake Clark, model Leeann Tweeden and former Broncos quarterback John Elway.

It was clear that the best one-liners of Robin Williams' career did not come from Mork and Mindy, Good Morning, Vietnam, or Dead Poets Society. According to those who were there, his greatest words of impact came on a chilly December morning in Iraq, when the comedian graced an outdoor stage and, in the presence of hundreds of American soldiers, shouted "Goooood Morning Baghdad!" From the word "go!" Williams was all about giving the troops a good show.

More than two dozen soldiers assigned to 1st Cavalry Division units got to send greetings to their loved ones on a variety of local and national TV news programs over the December 2004 holiday weekend. And a few got to see their relatives in the flesh. Members of the division's 122nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment turned part of the Camp al-Tahreer office into a remote TV studio, broadcasting live greetings to CNN, Fox News, the Today Show and local TV stations throughout the country.

Senator John Kerry, D-Mass., greeted Soldiers hailing from his state at Camp Al Tahreer in Baghdad, Iraq Jan. 5, 2005. During the visit, Kerry discussed sports, the presidential election, and the state of the war in Iraq. Kerry met with soldiers from his state, asking them what he should tell Congress about the war in Iraq. The troops told him that the good work that they are doing was not getting reported in the United States.

On January 12th 2005 the Army and Air Force Exchange Service opened a new bazaar at Camp Liberty to "provide more shopping for soldiers, but also to help Iraq take another step forward in the rebuilding of the country," said Dan Tompkins, AAFES Iraq vice president. "This bazaar represents a historic moment; this facility was planned, coordinated, financed and built by the Iraqi vendors," said Tompkins. "These entrepreneurs represent the future of Iraq - men who will not yield to the terrorists and will bring Iraq into the brotherhood of democracies."

The bazaar building houses more than 70 vendors selling everything from local perfumes to Iraqi souvenirs. Many of the vendors sell items that are unique to Iraq and provide soldiers an opportunity to buy a true souvenir without having to go outside of the camp. Shoppers at the all-Iraqi bazaar at Liberty can find items such as stained glass, handcrafted art, paintings, electronics, hardware items, custom made leather goods, Iraqi jewelry and footwear. A unique centralized checkout system accepts cash and credit cards as well as the Department of Defense's Military Star credit card. AAFES carefully monitors prices and products, and all credit card transactions are conducted securely through the AAFES network.

The new bazaar is a metal warehouse building built entirely by Iraqi contractors. The contractors provided all construction labor and material for the approximately 10,000 square-foot, $140,000 building located next to the Camp Liberty Post Exchange. The previous facility, a 5,000 square-foot series of Iraqi-provided tents with inadequate lighting, averaged about one-half of what it makes now. The original bazaar began in mid-2003 at the AAFES facility located at the Baghdad International Airport in a warehouse across from Iraq's first AAFES Burger King facility. Negotiations took place with AAFES contracting at the end of 2004 to establish the first long term bazaar contract in Iraq.

When most people think of rugby they might think of England or Australia, and although they might think of football without the pads, they probably don't know the meanings of a maul, scrum or try.

Having organized a weekly game at Camp Victory in June 2005, one Australian major is teaching people a maul is where one or more players are in contact with the ball, a scrum is like the line of scrimage, and a try is a touch down. After hearing a British officer mention that there used to be a regular rugby game at Camp Victory, Australian Maj. Andrew "Vargs" Varga, coalition logistics officer, Resources and Sustainment, Multi-National Force - Iraq, took it upon himself to revive the game at Camp Liberty and extend an open invitation to whoever would like to play.

"We didn't have anywhere to play so we decided to make our own field," Varga said. "It was a difficult task because there aren't too many places around here that are unoccupied and big enough to hold a rugby field." After a long search of Camps Victory and Liberty, he found a spot that was unoccupied, big enough and flat enough. He and a small group of equally devoted rugby players built their field by rigging a discarded piece of fencing to a Humvee to produce a makeshift rake. They proceeded to till and form the piece of land until they had a field worthy of hosting multiple games of rugby on a weekly basis.

The players have affectionately named their new field the "Dust Bowl" and have played many games in the three months of its existence, Varga said. It was very important to Varga that the game be made available to any and everyone who wanted to play. The games are played every Sunday at 6 p.m., and he is happy to see it is a good time for all who come, he said. Playing this game is really more about having a good time than competing against each other, and I haven't seen anybody leave the field who would say they didn't have a load of fun. Many different nations and cultures have come together in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Games like Varga's weekly rugby match strengthen the camaraderie and bonding between the different cultures who have united for a greater good.

It was reported in February 2005 that Camp Liberty was now able to offer its soldiers something rather different from the regular mess hall - Pizza Hut, Burger King, Subway, Popeye's, and Taco Bell. This is in addition to the PX that sells anything from candy bars to televisions.

Camp Liberty Detention Facility

A portion of Camp Liberty reportedly serves as a tent compound used to house detainees scheduled to be freed. That facility at Camp Liberty, along with Camp Redemption at the Abu Ghraib Prison, sprung up as a result of the need to streamline the processing of Iraqi prisoners. It is meant to address overcrowding issues highlighted by the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse scandal, as well as formalize the interrogation process.

The facility opened on September 14, 2004, is surrounded by a barbed-wire fence, and consists of air-conditioned tents in which prisoners are housed.




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