Tuz Khurmatu Airbase
Al Tuz Airfield
Tuz Khurmatu Airbase is located approximately 180 kilometers North of Baghdad, and about 14 kilometers West of the town of Tuz Khurmatu. The airbase is served by a 9,800 foot long runway. There were at least 8 hardened aircraft shelters visiable in the 1995 CIB imagery.
1st Lt. David Bernstein and Pfc. John Hart, soldiers in Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, were killed when their convoy came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades and machinegun fire. Bernstein and Hart were in the last vehicle in a quick reaction force convoy. They got cut off from the rest of the convoy when guerilla fighters shot a RPG at their vehicle causing the driver, Spc. Joshua Sams, Charlie Company, to lose control of the vehicle and crash into a dirt berm. The vehicle came to a stop on top of Sams' arm. Bernstein, mortally wounded from a gunshot wound to the leg, crawled over to Sams' side under direct fire, and pushed on the gas pedal with his hand, moving the vehicle forward off of Sams' arm. Bernstein collapsed shortly afterward and died. The RPG explosion killed Hart who was in the back of the humvee.
FOB Bernstein is a former Iraq Air field. What was once an airfield for the Iraqi military has been home to several hundred 25th Infantry Division (Light) Soldiers during their year-long deployment for Operation Iraqi Freedom II. Located on a desolate, flat range of ankle-high shrubbery about 10 miles from the city of Tuz, Forward Operating Base Bernstein is the headquarters for Task Force 1-14 Infantry. The bunkers and hangars on FOB Bernstein are now used as a base of operations for the battalion-sized task force working out of 2nd Brigade Combat Team's Area of Operations South. The task force's mission is to defeat anti-coalition efforts and isolate its area of operations from external threats. The task force is comprised of soldiers from several units with many different military occupational specialties. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 14th Inf. Regiment; Battery C, 2nd Bn., 11th Field Artillery Rgt.; Btry. B, 1st Bn., 62nd Air Defense Artillery Rgt.; Company B, 65th Engineer Bn.; Co. B, 125th Signal Bn., 225th Forward Support Bn., and Enlisted Tactical Air Control personnel from the Air Force have all conducted operations out of FOB Bernstein.
As February 2004 came to a close, the 1st Battalion 14th Infantry [Task Force Golden Dragons] was solidly planted in Iraq and was fully engaged in all aspects of military operations. The first operation was the 600 mile tactical convoy through Iraq to the Forward Operating Base (and new home) near the city of Tuz. The operation took four days and tested discipline to stay ever ready for contact the entire time. Upon arrival at Tuz, the unit conducted a relief in place with the 1st BN, 508th Infantry (from 173d ABN in Italy). Initially, anti-coalition forces attacked the camp with rocket fire. A portion of the BN is located roughly 40 KMs north in FOB GRANT. A small part of HHC and company supply sergeants are located in Kirkuk with the Brigade headquarters. The Battalion's area of operations is large - roughly 150 Kms by 75 Kms. The living conditions are a little austere but certainly adequate. Every soldier lives in a hard site with heat and AC, but limited e-mail and phone access.
The first part of the "Golden Dragons' Iraq Tour 2004" was a mission in the Mosul region. The Golden Dragons were originally supposed to be attached to I Corps' Stryker Brigade Combat Team for 60 days in an operation to capture high-value targets. Ten days into that operation they were redirected to head south to engage Sadr militia fighters in Najaf. Two weeks later, they all returned to FOB Bernstein.
As part of the expanding "Golden Dragons' Iraq Tour 2004," soldiers of Task Force 1-14 Infantry moved again. This time it would be different from their previous Mosul and Najaf missions in April 2004, since they would not leave any assets or return to FOB Bernstein. Instead, soldiers from TF 1-14 INF would be stationed up north at Kirkuk Air Base, while TF 1-120 INF of the North Carolina National Guard would take over FOB Bernstein.
Reported in November of 2004 - the medical needs of troops based at FOB Bernstein are well taken care of; 20 medics work out of the Battalion Aid Station, and at least 10 are on duty at any one time. Culinary needs are not forgotten either with the base's Freedom Restaurant turning out chicken kebabs and rotisserie chicken for the troops.
In January 2006 The "Cobra" 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Iraqi Army Division took control of FOB Bernstein and responsibility for the security of the surrounding region from the "Balls of the Eagle" 2nd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division during a transfer of authority ceremony. The transfer took place after many months of training and joint missions with the Iraqi Army, preparing them for the eventual takeover. During the ceremony, the 2/320th commander recounted more than 600 missions, three battalion-sized operations, and countless smaller missions in a speech to the participants.
“The Cobra battalion was formed in January of 2004, so this isn’t a process that just started with our arrival,” said Lt. Col. Martin J. Holland, the battalion commander of the 320th Field Artillery Regiment. “The basis of [the transfer] really came in the training and development of the Cobra battalion over that two year stretch and building their operational capabilities where they were able to operate tactically with very little coalition assistance.”
Holland said the “Cobras” have come a long way, and Lt. Col. Safa, commander of the Iraqi Army 2nd Brigade, expressed his pride after the ceremony.
“I’m very proud of my soldiers, my officers, and the people who have died or been injured for this,” Safa said. “All the people who died from this battalion are from Tuz. We ask God to mercy them and send them to heaven.”
During the ceremony, the “Balls of the Eagle” folded up their colors and let the “Cobras” unfold theirs. A key to Bernstein was given to Safa by Holland.
“They’ve done a great job,” Holland said. “I am very confident that the Iraqi Army is capable of controlling this battle space.”
The 320th Field Artillery Regiment will leave behind a company-sized element to assist in future operations if needed, but the rest will be moved to Kirkuk, Iraq. In his speech, Holland explained that the Soldiers staying behind were for further assistance in the transition.
Safa said the next step after assuming control of the base would be to use it effectively in order to maintain the safety of the Iraqi people in the province.
“We are from the people,” Safa said. “And, we work for the people. If we don’t protect them, who can protect them?”
Coalition forces have been working not only with the Iraqi Army, but also local police and government officials, who were at the ceremony, to provide safety in the area.
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