After spending about a week and a half at Joint Base Balad in central Iraq getting spun up on theatre launch and recovery operations and being deemed reliable enough, I’ve been sent down to Ali Air Base (also known as Tallil Air Base by the Iraqis and Camp Adder by the Army) near Nasiriyah, Iraq to be one of the crews manning the LRE here. I arrived in the evening under a light drizzle and immediately set about getting accommodations and an introduction to local flying procedures. You guys don’t care about that though… so information on what life here will be like.
First, I get my own room which is a HUGE plus. Balad has a much larger population and requires that you have a roommate. Though not necessarily bad, having your own room and privacy is fantastic. The rooms are better than the one I just came from, too. The bathrooms here are closer to my room and cleaner than at JBB. The walkways are of poured concrete and not just paving stones. The dining facility is nicer though a little further of a walk. The fruit is fresher and more plentiful. I have decent Internet access in my room. The gym and barber shop are about as close as they were at Balad. All of this is an upgrade from where I was. Oh, and more importantly, this place isn’t known as Mortar City like JBB is. IDF attacks here are very, very rare.
We fly fewer aircraft and have no immediate oversight from the squadron commander. There are no other fixed-wing assets located here which pretty much makes the airfield ours. Want to land opposite direction? Sure thing, buddy! Want to use the runway without lights? Go nuts! At one point they even tried getting us a standing clearance to takeoff and land on a taxiway instead of a runway. Pretty crazy.
The only downside right now is that it’s the rainy season and the mud here is pretty intense, at least when you’re off of the aforementioned walking paths. As it begins to warm up and dry out, though, that problem will disappear completely. So life is good here in Iraq… well, as good as it really gets. Hopefully I can hold on to this post until the end of my deployment and just head back to Qatar and my rotater from here.
Some interesting tidbits about the local area… Nasiriyah is on the famous Euphrates River near the ancient city of Ur, a Sumerian city home to the Great Ziggurat of Ur and thought to be the birthplace of the Bible’s Abraham. The ziggurat is visible from most parts of base, but it sits just outside of the base’s perimeter making it off limits to me. That’s unfortunate; I would absolutely treasure the opportunity to climb to its peak. I’ll post a picture of it when I get a chance.
I’ll be emailing my new mailing address to those who might be interested. I’m also sporting a two-week-old mustache. The longest I’ve had one previous to this was five weeks, but I don’t intend on cutting this one off until I’m back in Baltimore or even Vegas. It’s a little out of regulations, but I’m not going to worry about it. Hopefully it’ll get long enough for some miniature handlebar action. One can dream! Expect pictures of it as it becomes more and more beastly.