Camp Speicher

Overview

Coalition forces' only air-to-air loss during the 1991 Gulf War was the plane of Navy Cmdr. Michael Scott Speicher. F/A-18 pilot Michael "Scott" Speicher was shot down over Iraq on the opening night of the Gulf War on 17 January 1991. He was originally considered "killed in action, body not recovered." Iraqi authorities provided a small amount of human remains they claimed to be those of Speicher. US experts determined this to be a lie. Iraq later claimed that his body was devoured by animals and no remains were found. At first, it was believed that Speicher had been killed in action. But later, evidence found at the crash site and reports from Iraqi defectors and foreign intelligence services indicated that Speicher had survived the crash and was a prisoner of war in Iraq. But in January 2001, the Navy changed his status to "missing in action" --- a decision the Navy says was based on an absence of evidence that he died in the crash of his plane and the lack of any satisfactory accounting of his case from the government of Iraq. In October 2002, the US classified Speicher as "captured" by Iraq. Captain Speicher would not be the first prisoner Iraq held in violation of the laws of war. It was not until April 1998 that Iraq agreed to release prisoners taken in the 1980 to 1988 Iran-Iraq War. Some sixty-thousand Iranian prisoners of war languished in captivity for a decade or more before being exchanged.

The barracks where soldiers are living once housed the students of the Iraqi Air Force Academy. After the initial U.S. invasion, locals looted, stealing just about anything that could be sold. When the U.S. forces set up the initial FOB there was not much left to work with. Estimates at the time put as much as 80% of the buildings in major disrepair. The U.S. military and various contractors had their work cut out for them to make Speicher into a functional FOB. The first priority for U.S. soldiers was to clear out the tons of unexploded ordnance in the area.

489th Engineer Battalion (Corps) ( Mechanized) Battalion HQ, an HHC Detachment (mess, commo, maint, support platoon), and A Company (minus personnel to exercise AVLBs left at Camp VA) departed Camp Pennsylvania for LSA Anaconda and crossed the border into Iraq on 15 May 2003. Route of march was Camp PA to Navistar to LSACedar to CSC Scandia to LSA Anaconda. The Battalion HQ, an HHC Detachment, and A Company arrived CSC Scandia at 0200 hours on 16 May. The convoy departed around 0900 hours, arriving at LSA Anaconda at 1500 hours. B Company departed Camp PA with all organic equipment and personnel (minus personnel to exercise AVLBs left at Camp VA) for AL Asad on 27 May. B Company mission would be in support of 3rd Armored Calvary Regiment (ACR) while directly reporting to the 122nd EN BN (Corps)(Wheeled)(South Carolina NG). All the sensitive items on the lost pallet were recovered. The pallet had been located by Chief Gonzalez with the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Sycamore (38SLD67804069) in North Tikrit.

In May 2003 Coalition Forces assisted locals in filling craters under railroad tracks outside Camp Speicher at Tikrit to restore train movement. They continued to conduct medical treatment programs in the Iraqi community outside the city. The 1st Battalion, 44th Air Defense Artillery Regiment from Fort Hood, Texas, has been tasked with providing force protection for the combat brigades of the 4th Infantry Division. They are located at Camp Speicher in Tikrit. Since there is no threat from the Iraqi Air Force, ADA has been doing Infantry assignments. The 1/44th is responsible for several force protection improvements at Camp Ironhorse, Camp Speicher, and around the city of Taji. In June 2003 Lt. Col. Richard Evans assumed command of the 404th Aviation Support Battalion during a ceremony at Camp Speicher, Iraq. Lt. Col. Alan Stull was the departing Commander.

References to soaring eagles proliferated on 28 June 2003 at a re-opening ceremony for the Al Seccor health clinic, just outside Camp Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. Al Seccor means "The Eagle," or eagle village and the 4th Brigade is called the "Iron Eagle" brigade. It's not just a play on word association. The village and the Iron Eagle brigade's S-3 operations section have worked together closely since April 2003.

Quarters are small, modern looking houses in a row of about ten of the same like Condos. They were apparently used by the Iraqi officers stationed there.

Its name scrawled across the top of the entrance, the "Clear Creek II PX" doesn't exactly resemble its Fort Hood supersized counterpart, but it has become a welcome touch of good old-fashioned U.S. commercialism, albeit military style, for U.S. troops in Iraq. Hood soldiers deployed with the 4th Infantry Division at Camp Speicher have the chance to shop for food and other basics, courtesy of the Army Air Force Exchange Service and Fort Hood Post Exchange manager Patrick McGhee. The camp, near Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, had been without a store for two months. When McGhee arrived in May, he agreed to set up a temporary exchange while he and his staff focused on readying what would be the permanent store. The store itself serves more than 1,000 soldiers a day and has seen that number sometimes near 2,000. Pharris said 13th Community Support Command troops have volunteered to work in the main store, off-loading trucks and stocking shelves and running cash registers.

On 24 March 2004, the 1st Infantry Division Support Command celebrated the grand opening of the "Victory Inn" on Forward Operating Base Speicher. The DISCOM Commander, COL Paul Wentz, challenged the DISCOM Food Services Team to make their dining facility a world-class operation serving the best meals in the country for soldiers and civilians. Diners were served a delicious meal of prime rib, crab legs and fried rice. For dessert, SSG Derwin Wesley and the KBR staff served two, beautifully decorated cakes complete with the 1ID logo. COL Wentz also took time to thank two KBR chefs for their skillfully designed, edible decorations. A team effort made this special event a genuine success.

In the summer of 2004, a rail spur between Tikrit and Speicher was opened. The three kilometer spur track is an offshoot of the main line, which runs between Baghdad and Mosul. The railway is able to carry the weight of 26 moving carriages, each hauling up to 65 tons. The project was mainly ran by the 1st Infantry Division who had a to do a great deal of work to open the line because most railways in Iraq had been neglected.

The rail line is immensely important for operations in Tikrit and Speicher. Logistics wise, trains are better for transporting goods because of their safety and high loading capacity as opposed to the easily attacked and lighter load bearing trucks on the highway. The connection will be used to transport basic goods, water and construction materials. The primary reason for opening the link was to allow FOB Speicher to become an industrial base.

Military officials say that when Speicher becomes an Iraqi facility, the rail spur will be there to facilitate the progress of Iraq.

On April 7, 2005, three members of SSG Fowler’s V3 section, SPC Walker, PFC Seibert and PV2 Tran, suited up to install a new radio relay. Instead of it being on the ground though these soldiers had to install it on Camp Speicher’s very own water tower.

In August 2005, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held FOB Speicher to mark the new Coalition headquarters at the site, the largest structure built to date for Coalition forces. The facilities were to serve as the future headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during its rotation into Iraq in late 2005. The new facility is to consist of 51,000 square feet of division headquarters for elements of the “Screaming Eagles”. The original concept for the construction of the facility was based on the 1st Cavalry “D Main”’ at Camp Victory in Baghdad. The construction contract was awarded as a design/build task order to First Kuwaiti Contracting on Sept. 30, 2004 for $6.9 million. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Gulf Region North district also had construction oversight of the 6,000-square-foot Secured Compartmentalized Information Facilities.

A Subway restaurant, Burger King and Pizza Hut are located in a food court on the base for troops in Tikrit. FOB Speicher is also home to an old soccer stadium.

There is a MWR facility to get on the computer or to make a telephone call. soldiers completed building a maintenance operational center, which is called the MOC. It’s an air-conditioned building for that is located right next to the flight line.

As of August, 2004 the camp was home to around 6,000 soldiers.

In late July, 2005 Speicher had opened Add on Armor (AOA) program where various vehicles could upgrade their armor for patrol missions.

Battalion sized units are given $25,000 a month to use for any number of repairs and upgrades so living conditions can imporve. By most accounts this money has vastly improved life on Speicher and made it one of the most comfortable bases for soldiers in Iraq.

Winter temperatures can drop to the upper 20s and low 30s. Units have heaters for their rooms to keep their quarters warm during these cold months. During the summer, temperatures can get up to around 130+ degrees. During these swealtering months, soldiers cool themselves with air conditioners bought from the upgrade money. Satellite TV's for sports and movies are also located throughout the camp. There is a BX (Base Exchange), a beauty salon and spa, barber shop, cleaners/alterations, a photo ab, a bazaar and gift shop.

Compared to those who live outside the wire, the soldiers here have it really good according to soldiers based in Speicher. Soldiers at FOB Speicher walk around in soft caps in base though Kevlar helmets need to be worn outside the base.

FOB Speicher’s dining facilities are run by KBR and resemble college dorm cafeterias offering a wide choice of items. A dessert bar is also located there which offering four different types of Baskin Robbins ice cream.

As of 2005, contractors had paved the walkways leading into the DFAC.

Most senior staff officers and NCOs ride around Speicher in NTVs ( Non-Tactical Vehicles) which mostly consist of GMC Yukons and Chevy Suburbans. Renovated Iraqi barracks and specially outfitted shipping containers (CHUs). These CHUs are used as housing for soldiers. CHUs are all wired for electricity and many have their own satellite television. The mail arrives daily at Speicher as opposed to only 2-3 times a week at outlying base camp.

KBR runs two MWR (morale, welfare, recreation) facilities. There soldiers have use of Internet terminals, phones, big-screen TVs, PlayStation 2s, pool tables, table tennis, libraries, and a lounge area. USO tours are known to occasionaly come to Speicher. There are a few movie theaters scattered around FOB Speicher. The base also is home to a fairly large PX. The PX even contains a freezer section where frozen meats shipped directly from Germany are sold. Speicher and a couple of gym facilities.The base holds a thirty-two-bed hospital.

Soldiers have remarked on seeing 1000 foot high walls of dust moves across the airfield. Although these amazing sites aren’t any fun to be in or especially fly in. High winds can last for hours or even days, pretty much shutting down all operations. The most rare and intense wind comes in the form of microbursts, where a sudden change of temperature causes extreme winds that can be clocked over 200 mph. These winds are so large as they have the strength to pick helicopters up and moved them a few feet and cause damage.

Forward Operating Base (FOB) Speicher is now referred to often as Contingency Operating Base (COB) Speicher. And while U.S. military officals have maintained that Speicher would be eventually transferred over to the Iraqis, as of March, 2006, there was no firm date on when the handover of Speicher would take place.

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