Sadr City [Saddam City / Al Thawra]
Once known as Saddam City, then as Al Thawra, Sadr City is named for the Imam Mohammed Sadr, an Iraqi religious leader killed by Saddam Hussein. But many residents still call it Al Thawra.
Sadr City is subdivided into six sections. The district is one of the poorest in Baghdad. Unemployment is rampant. Homes are in disrepair. The population consists mostly of Shiite Moslems. It is also a haven for criminals released from Iraqi prisons by Saddam shortly before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Sadr City, built by Saddam Hussein, was the scene of numerous confrontations between coalition forces and residents in 2003. Infrastructure problems still plague portions of the district. Electrical services are intermittent. Parts of some streets in some neighborhoods are flooded with sewage from long-neglected pipes. Trash pickup stopped during the war, and residents started dumping their trash on the medians in the potholed streets.
The centerpiece of Sadr City is the municipal building. According to reports from Iraqi guards and unit translators, Saddam ordered that the Sadr City municipal building be constructed, gave one speech from the balcony of the new building and then never set foot in that low-income district again.
When US forces arrived in the district in June 2003, looters had stripped the building of everything -- even its wiring, plumbing, and marble stairs. After hauling away anything of value, they torched what was left, leaving a burned shell of a building. US soldiers assessed the building's condition, determined what repairs were needed, and hired contractors to make repairs. About three weeks and $30,000 later, Sadr City's 30-member district advisory council now meets regularly in the once-gutted building.
On 08 April 2003, US Marines crawled forward at a snail's pace as they fought Iraqi resistance at an industrial complex the southeastern edge of Baghdad. The complex contained many acres of factories and warehouses, a soft drink bottling factory, brewery and The State Enterprise for Tobacco and Cigarettes. The Baghdad cigarette factory, operated by Sabah Sarhid Abbas, was originally equipped by Hamburg-based Hauni, a company that provides supplies for the cigarette-making industry.
Camp Marlboro, an Iraqi cigarette factory in Sadr City, now being used as a temporary military base by the 2/2d Armored Cavalry Regiment. In May 2003 a military police unit from the 3rd Infantry Division arrived at Camp Marlboro to conduct joint patrols in eastern Baghdad. The Kellogg-Brown-Root folks who have always provided good meals to fielded troops are at Muleskinner Base, which is a good drive on booby-trapped roads away from Camp Marlboro. The problem is that by the time the insulated containers of chow get to Camp Marlboro they will be cold.
The cigarette factory serves as the headquarters for the the Army's 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. The squadron is trying to secure Sadr City, an area measuring 3-by-4 1/3 miles, with 800 troops supported by a 160-soldier military police company. The squadron employs 60 Iraqi interpreters who accompany every patrol and has two Iraqi Americans who work for the Pentagon. The morning after the Oct. 9 ambush which killed two Americans and two Iraqis, three mortar shells landed on Camp Marlboro. Within an hour, US military commanders sent 20 tanks rumbling through the streets of Sadr City in a show of force. Two companies of 14 tanks each and one company of 14 Bradley Fighting Vehicles have since been attached to the squadron.
Life in Camp Marlboro revolves around the effort to keep order in the streets of Baghdad, but also around a nonstop battle with mosquitoes. At the cigarette factory there is an electrical plant and a big car parts plant which were looted in April 2003. Second Squadron troops attempted to protect the Electric Company yard in part because it is adjacent to a government-run cigarette factory that now houses the squadron's headquarters.
FOB Melody / Firebase Melody
Firebase Melody in Baghdad is a former school complex that was home to about 650 soldiers as of November 2003. It is across the Tigris river from the Green Zone, between the Army Canal and a 4 lane highway. It is on the campus of a school or university, since the base has an old dorm that the troops sleep in.
Four soldiers who left Iraq in flag-draped coffins were remembered on Veterans Day [11 November 2003] by their comrades who remain to complete the task. Four plaques were placed on buildings at the camp. The men honored were Pfc. Robert L. Frantz, 19, who was killed by an explosive device while guarding the central bank on June 18; Spc. Edward J. Herrgott, 20, killed by a sniper while guarding a museum in Baghdad on July 3; Sgt. Juan M. Serrano, 21, who died in a vehicle accident on July 24; and Spc. William J. Maher III, 35, who was killed by an improvised explosive device on July 28. The plaques will return to Germany with the unit and will be displayed there.
By Thanksgiving 2003, Company B, 1st Battalion, 36th Infantry Regiment was at Firebase Melody in Baghdad. The battalion is part of the 1st Armored Division, which has operational responsibility for Baghdad, the tense Iraqi capital. While the battalion couldn't bring the troops home for Thanksgiving, it did what it could to bring a touch of Thanksgiving home to the troops.
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