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Umm Qasr

Iraq's naval facility at Umm Qasr took on added importance after 1980, in particular because the Shatt al Arab waterway, which leads into Basra, was the scene of extensive fighting. It was at Umm Qasr that most of the Iraqi navy's active vessels were based in early 1988.

On November 23-24, 1992, the Security Council decided to continue economic sanctions against Iraq. Subsequent media reports of Iraqi "border incursions" or "cross-border raids" into an area described as part of Kuwait were presented as military operations that threaten Kuwait. In fact, the "raids" consisted of Iraqi workers dismantling parts of an Iraqi navy base in the port of Umm Qasr and moving them to what will be, according to the United Nations, the new Iraqi border. In 1992 a UN commission formed to demarcate the boundary between Iraq and Kuwait redrew the borders, placing most of the naval and commercial ports of Umm Qasr under Kuwaiti control. The new borders divide Iraq's Rumaila oilfield between Iraq and Kuwait, moving the border 80 kilometres into Iraqi territory. The Rumaila oilfield has an estimated remaining production of 11 billion barrels of crude oil. Umm Qasr was Iraq's only operating seaport. The port of Basra was blocked by vessels sunk during the early stages of the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq spent billions of dollars upgrading Umm Qasr's ports, building factories and petrochemical plants and dredging channels to enable large tankers to dock. The new borders became official under UN auspices on 15 January 1993.

Umm Qasr, a key Iraqi port that US officials said they hoped to use for military or humanitarian supplies, was declared to be under US and British control on 21 March 2003. But three days later, house-to-house battles still raged there. US officials said that resistance in Umm Qasr had been broken and the town was under British control. But reporters taking the road toward Umm Qasr encountered large groups of armed Iraqis in civilian clothes walking down the highway and mulling on the road, brandishing automatic weapons. From Safwan, just north of the Kuwaiti border, to the Persian Gulf port town of Umm Qasr, 15 miles to the southeast, to the highway leading north to Basra, Iraqi troops armed with rocket-propelled grenades staged hit-and-run ambushes against British outposts and US convoys passing through on the long trip north. They have laid land mines on roads, set booby traps and caused British units camped along the highways to constantly shift positions at night to evade attack.

A seven-vehicle convoy of Seabees, Marines, and Soldiers from Camp Commando near Kuwait City made the bumpy and dusty one-and-a-half hour trip to visit Iraq's first liberated city, the port of Umm Qasr. Rear Adm. Charles Kubic, dual-hatted as Commander of the Navy's First Naval Construction Division and Commander, First Marine Expeditionary Force Engineer Group (MEG), assembled key personnel of his staff and invited seven unilateral media members to check on the progress of a Seabee detachment in residence there since right after the liberation.

The Seabees' work then expanded into community projects such as the donation and construction of a playground and soccer field, enhancements to a school, and employment of local Iraqi citizens to help the Seabees on a road improvement project. Under the Navy's Construction Capability (CONCAP) contract that provides emergency construction services worldwide, Kellogg, Brown, and Root employees are on the scene in Kuwait and Iraq for professional project planning and to make purchases and arrangements locally for some of the Seabees' work, including the Umm Qasr soccer field and the road project.

As of mid-April 2003 significant progress had been made in restoring Iraq's Umm Qasr Port, but it is still not ready for full commercial operations. As a result, the port had not been declared officially open for commercial business by Coalition forces. While mine clearance operations in the entrance channel and explosive clearance operations within the port harbor were substantially completed, significant dredging still needed to occur for optimum vessel draft. Because there was still no electricity at the port, shore and gantry cranes were not operable. It was undetermined when electricity to the port will be restored. Port management was still under Coalition control. Civil Port assessment and commercial viability status is pending. Port workers are returning to Umm Qasr, but in limited numbers only. Stevedoring service were extremely limited.

As of April 2003 the USS Comfort, a Navy ship with advanced medical facilities that the camp cannot provide, was in the port.

On May 7, 2003 The Carolina, a dredging vessel of Great Lakes Dredging and Dock, arrives in the port of Umm Qasr. As part of its capital infrastructure contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development, Bechtel's initial work includes surveying and emergency dredging of the port, to enable ships to deliver humanitarian aid.

On 23 May 2003, Coalition Forces Land Component Commander (CFLCC) transferred control of the Port of Umm Qasr, Iraq from the United Kingdom's 17th Port and Maritime Regiment to a commercial management team from Stevedoring Service of America (SSA). Naval Coastal Warfare (NCW) forces departed the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr, ending their two-month port security and harbor defense mission. The 200 U.S. Navy and Coast Guard personnel represent the last significant U.S. naval presence in the port, which will be turned over to Iraqi civilian control when it is fully operational.

As of 26 June 2003 the port of Umm Qasr is still not fully operational, although significant progress has been made. The port is open to humanitarian aid, military, and commercial shipping.

During major combat operations, Naval Coastal Warfare (NCW) units provided port security and harbor defense at the port of Umm Qasr, but in August 2003 they returned for a much different mission. Reservists assigned to Naval Coastal Warfare Group (NCWG) 1 returned to the southern Iraqi city to deliver school supplies and child-sized picnic tables to children in this poverty-stricken community. The Sailors from NCW delivered the supplies to one of the schools in Umm Qasr and interacted with many of the town's children, who were naturally interested in the convoy. When final exams were completed for the day, the Sailors passed out packages to the students and teachers.

In January 2004 it was announced that work would start soon on a $10.3 million project to renovate the Umm Qasr Naval Base for the Iraqi Armed Forces. The project is funded through the Project Management Office (PMO) of the Coalition Provisional Authority. The PMO manages the $18.4 billion appropriated by the U.S. Congress to support the reconstruction of Iraqi infrastructure. The Umm Qasr project includes building renovation; construction of electrical, water and sanitary sewage systems; security improvements; dock repair and dredging. The project is important to the Iraqi security necessary to continue with the major task of rebuilding the nation's infrastructure. A key benefit of completing this project is to give the Iraqi Armed Forces the facilities they need for the defense of their country. Helping Iraqis gain jobs and build industries has a direct impact on their safety and security. The work at Umm Qasr was completed in mid-May 2004. The prime contractor, Weston Solutions, Inc. of West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.A involved Iraqi contractors, suppliers and labor.

Port of Umm Qasr with Iraqi Coastal Defense Force ships in the foreground

Camp Bucca / Theater Internment Facility (TIF)

Camp Bucca, the coalition's primary facility for enemy prisoners of war is near Umm Qasr in southern Iraq. The camp was named after Ron Bucca, a New York fire marshal and Army Reservist who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. Envisioned as a temporary place to hold Iraqi prisoners of war, the camp was emptied and closed by December 2003. However, Iraq's postwar insurgency created the need for a place to house thousands of suspected insurgents, and commanders turned to Camp Bucca to supplement the facilities at Abu Ghraib prison outside Baghdad.

It was at one point operated by the 800th Military Police Brigade. As of January 2005, the facility was being operated by the 18th Military Police Brigade and Task Force 134.

As of late-January 2005, the facility had a holding capacity of 6,000 prisonners but only held 5,000. These were being supervised by 1,200 Army MPs and Air Force Aimen.

At Camp Bucca's in-processing stations, soldiers fill out cards for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that include the prisoner's name, properties, hometown, and family members. These cards then get sent back to the prisoner's home. The process can take up to a month; so many family members come to the camp instead, to find out for themselves.

The first thing the MPs had to do was find a proper spot to set up an EPW camp. To put up a camp, Army planners first scout out a site isolated enough to be able to protect the prisoners and their guards from attack. Free Iraq Forces are also used to help locate a safe place. The FIF is a group of native Iraqis who have joined to help the American and British forces in freeing the Iraqi people. The local towns are checked for nearby places to buy needed products, warehouses for storing supplies, and the potential for local doctors, caterers, and contractors -- anything that would enhance the operations. In Umm Qasr, Maddocks used interpreters who spoke to local businessmen and helped find the things they needed to help build and maintain Camp Bucca.

The 800th MP Brigade was a "command and control" operation - the top of a wide umbrella of military units from across the operational theater that work together to create an effective, efficient EPW management program. As of late April 2003 units involved in the EPW control and containment process included: The 223rd MP Co., Army National Guard, Lexington, Ky., which was responsible for transporting EPWs from collection centers to Camp Bucca; The 724th MP Battalion, USAR, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., confinement and control; The 822nd MP Company, Arlington Heights, Ill., perimeter security, gate control and community liaison between the camp and the local Iraqi community; The 320th MP Company, Ashelee, PA, in-processing and medical care of arriving prisoners. Other support units included Army engineers who did the heavy construction, joint psychological operations units that accustom the prisoners to their temporary safe haven, and joint civil affairs units that were to handle EPW repatriation after the war was over. International partners included British forces, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a Spanish Marine Corps medical unit which was at one point expected to eventually take over EPW medical facilities at the camp.

The 267 MP Company had alot of different missions. Like the 223rd and the 822nd, the 267th was attached to the 724 MP BN. The Company had Area Security (not the 822nd) when the camp was first handed over from British to American MPs, border convoy security, Prison Guard, supply convoys to the port, and prisoner transport to Abu Ghraib. There many more missions that the company had but those were the ones from APR03-JAN04.

Initially members of the 800th MP Brigade believed they would be allowed to go home when all the detainees were released from the Camp Bucca Theater Internment Facility following the cessation of major ground combat on 1 May 2003. At one point, approximately 7,000 to 8,000 detainees were held at Camp Bucca. Through Article-5 Tribunals and a screening process, several thousand detainees were released. Many in the command believed they would go home when the detainees were released.

As of January 2004 the centerpiece of the 530th Military Police Battalion headquarters' living area at Camp Bucca was a little reminiscent of the old TV show "Petticoat Junction." On a raised wooden gazebo, soldiers built a deep tub that now serves as the swimming hole for the headquarters staff. The only thing missing are the pretty girls in petticoats. "We just throw some bleach in it every once in a while to keep it clean," said Staff Sgt. Vern Schulte, an MP in the battalion at Bucca, where hundreds of enemy prisoners-of-war are held. The pool, which looks more like a California-style hot tub, is a welcome relief. "This place was just a big square of sand when we walked into it," Schulte said. "Now we've got everything just like it should be."

A 07 January 2004 incident involved the escape of detainee #115032 from Camp Bucca (310th MP Battalion). A detainee allegedly escaped between the hours of 0445 and 0640 from Compound 12, of Camp Bucca. Investigation by CPT Kaires (310th MP Battalion S-3) and CPT Holsombeck (724th MP Battalion S-3) concluded that the detainee escaped through an undetected weakness in the wire. Contributing factors were inexperienced guards, lapses in accountability, complacency, lack of leadership presence, poor visibility, and lack of clear and concise communication between the guards and the leadership.

A 12 January 04 incident involved the escape of Detainees #115314 and #109950 as well as the escape and recapture of 5 nknown detainees at the Camp Bucca Detention Facility (310th MP Battalion). Several detainees allegedly escaped around 0300 from Compound 12, of Camp Bucca.

A 26 January 04 incident involved the escape of detainees #s 115236, 116272, and 151933 from Camp Bucca (310th MP Battalion). Several Detainees allegedly escaped between the hours of 0440 and 0700 during a period of intense fog. Investigation by CPT Kaires (310th MP Battalion S-3) concluded that the detainees crawled under a fence when visibility was only 10-15 meters due to fog. Contributing factors were the limited visibility (darkness under foggy conditions), lack of proper accountability reporting, inadequate number of guards, commencement of detainee feeding during low visibility operations, and poorly rested MPs.

In January 2005, approximately 400 Air Force Security Forces assigned to the 732nd Expeditionary Security Forces Squadron began helping operate Camp Bucca. According to a Jan. 30, 2005 report by the San Antonio Express-News, the planning for the posting of the airmen at Camp Bucca had begun in early 2004, and was being driven by the high-demand for Military Police troops. The airmen were to be stationed at the facility for six months before being replaced by another Security Forces contingent.

In January 2005 there was a large riot at Camp Bucca that left four Iraqi prisoners dead and six others wounded. The riot took place during a search for contraband in one of the camp’s 10 compounds. The riot quickly spread to three additional compounds, with detainees throwing rocks and fashioning weapons from materials inside their living areas. Officials said guards attempted to calm the increasingly volatile situation using verbal warnings and, when that failed, by use of nonlethal force. After about 45 minutes of escalating danger, officials said, lethal force was used to quell the violence.

In March 2005 a fuel truck accidentally drove over and collapsed the roof of an escape tunnel that was being dug out by several detainees living in Camp Bucca. The four-foot underground tunnel was an estimated 300-feet long and wide enough for a man to crawl through. Authorities claim no one escaped through the tunnel and the ringleaders were placed in isolation at the camp.

In May 2005, to cope with the continuing influx of detainees, the Pentagon announced that Bucca, which has eight compounds, would construct two more compounds. These new compounds would add the ability to hold an additional 1,400 prisoners. The expansion was estimated to cost $12 million.

As of March 2006, Bucca was Iraq's largest detainee facility with over 8,500 detainees.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:50:44 ZULU