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Thread: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

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    Question RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    My dad served in RAF Habbaniya 1937 - 1943.
    I'm wondering if anyone else has connections with this RAF Base in Iraq?

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    Default Re: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cotton View Post
    My dad served in RAF Habbaniya 1937 - 1943.
    I'm wondering if anyone else has connections with this RAF Base in Iraq?
    Happy New Year!
    Hello from the other side of the pond! My name's Tim Garson; ground call sign "Griz". I just happened to spot your question here today (30 Dec. 2017) while doing some research online. I was a Dept. of Defense contractor stationed with the USMC in al-Taqaddum air base in Habbaniya between 2006-2009. I have been to the former RAF Habbaniya many times over the years that I was stationed there. I took countless photos of both bases while stationed there. I'm afraid to say that your father and his commrades would be sickened if they saw the state of the current base. Walking around RAF Habbaniya taking photos on some of my missions there, I could see hints of its former British splendor. Unfortunately, most of the gardens were overgrown and weed infested. Beautiful water fountains were bone dry; most of the buildings were in partial ruins, and the movie theater was virtually a hollow shell; its movie screen shredded to tatters. Inside the theater, murals were painted on both sides of the theater walls, depicting the kindness and generosity of Saddam Hussein! Seriously? Are you freakin' kidding me! I suspect that the artist or artists were "encouraged" at the muzzle end of a firearm; or told to paint such images if they wanted their families to live.
    Some background about me... I'm a U.S. Navy veteran; I was in the first Gulf War, Desert Storm and in Bosnia twice. In 2006 I went to Iraq as a DoD contractor as a combat truck driver and was first stationed in Camp Anaconda in Balad. I was only there a couplke of months, when some friends and I were transferred to the Marine air base known as TQ in al-Taqaddum, which was an addition that the RAF built to expand the Habbaniya base with longer runways. When my seven friends and I arrived in TQ in May 2006, the base was quite barren and without the amenities that Camp Anaconda had featured. At the time there was one chow hall. The PX was not much larger than your average tool shed; and a Marine was stationed at the door to restrict the number of patrons due to the very small size; as one person would exit, another person would be permitted to enter; not that there was much of anything inside to buy! My fiends and I lived together in a ten man tent with plywood floors and plywood door. Despite the lack of facilities on TQ when we first arrived, my buddies and I thought we'd died and gone to Heaven! Upon our arrival, we quickly determined that due to the barren nature of the base, there was hardly any "brass" or supervisors; the brass were all stationed in Anaconda or at the base in Baghdad. We were happy as pigs in ****! Our mission with the military routinely took us to the bases in Anaconda and Baghdad, where we could take advantage of the amenities and visit our friends while on bases. it was my fiends and I that ultimately brought the "hooches" or living quarters to TQ from Camp Anaconda, as well as all of the building supplies, water plant supplies, etc. to TQ and Habbaniya.

    TQ quickly grew to an impressive base, with a large, air conditioned PX built, along with two more DFAC's (dining facilities or chow halls) built. The original DFAC was turned into another PX, and featured a local Iraqi store and Green Bean coffee shop. Unfortunately, as the base grew, the brass also started arriving, along with their bullshit. The base of TQ offers some great sights, as it sits on top of a plateau that overlooks Lake Habbaniya, one of the largest lakes in Iraq. A water filtration and bottling plant was built by the US military at the edge of the lake, and delivering bottled water to surrounding bases became one of our standard missions for the US military and our allies.
    As combat drivers, we were authorized to be armed by the US military; however it was against our employers company policy (KBR). MY friends and I would come to joke that it was against company policy, because the brass was probably afraid of getting "fragged"; in other words, having us use the firearms on them for their constant stupidity and bullshit! Ha-ha! We were only permitted to have a 4" (four inch) knife! When we first arrived in 2006, things were still pretty hot in Iraq, so most of us has knives with longer blades. I had one particular knife made by Becker Knife & Tool, that featured a heavy, recurve style blade approximately 16" in length; I wore it in an inverted fashion on the front of my ballistic vest. Needless to say, the US military provided protection for us on our convoy missions throughout Iraq. (Not wise bringing a knife to a gunfight; but nobody said we were geniuses! Ha-ha!) In 2007 or 2008, the brass decided to start enforcing the 4" blade limit on our knives, so we were forced to comply, or risk losing our jobs. In my case, just as we received word about the blade enforcement, I was going to soon depart on a two week R&R. So I went to the security office on base and asked if I could give them my long bladed knives to hold in their vault, until I departed, when I could take them home and leave them at my house. They allowed me to do so, and I took my assortment of long blades home, and returned with one sheath knife with precisely 4" blade!

    Most of my friends and I stayed in TQ. Once we were assigned to "hooches" (metal huts that were air conditioned, featured individual bedroom with sinks, and shared heads with toilet and shower) I paired up with one of my best friends and former tent mates. He and I remained roommates for the next 4.5 years; he became the brother I never had! In 2009, TQ was being prepared to be turned back over to the Iraqi's. Walt and I lost our hooches and were moved to the other side of TQ, closer to RAF Habbaniya, and lived in a six man plywood hut. We were only in that plywood hut for a few weeks, when we started hearing rumors about another potential move to a different part of the base. Walt and I could see the writing on the wall, so we volunteered to relocate to the base in al-Asad. All of our friends ridiculed us and told us that we were crazy! We smiled and left anyway. Due to our low badge numbers, Walt and I were immediately assigned a dry hooch to live in upon our arrival in al-Asad. We were only in the dry hooch (a hooch without shower or toilet) for about two weeks, when we received a a pair of wet hooches, that had plumbing! We were in our wet hooch for a few weeks, when the rest of our "contingent" arrived en mass, from TQ. Since so many of them arrived at one time, and partially because quite a number of them had relatively high badge numbers, it took months for some of them to get a wet hooch; Walt and I had the last laugh.

    Unfortunately in 2010, thousands of us were laid off at a time, and lost our jobs. In my 4.5 years in Iraq, I had driven virtually every inch of Iraq as a combat truck driver with the US military; mostly with the Marines. Early in 2006, I had done numerous convoy missions with various US Army National Guard or Reserve units who were also great to work with. In 2009, the Marines stationed in al-Asad were sent home to the States if they were towards the end of their tour; or if it was still early in their tour of duty, they were sent to Afghanistan. In al-Asad, the Marines were (unfortunately for us), replaced with the Army's 82nd Airborne. The 82nd Airborne had been a mighty and proud elite group since their inception during WWII, up to the first Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm. But the 82nd that my friends and I witnessed in al-Asad and went on missions with, were mostly incompetent; though I'm sure there were some professionals among the group, but I never met any of them. Among my buddies, we started referring to the 82nd as "the 82nd Prima Donnas"; the only reason the 82nd wasn't annihilated on our missions, is because the US Marines had already "cleaned house" by the time they had arrived, doing what Marines do best!

    Starting while I was stationed in Iraq, I began asking myself some deep questions, as to why I had been spared multiple times. In the course of my job, I had been on over 1200 combat missions throughout virtually all of Iraq. TQ and RAF Habbaniya are located in al-Anbar Province, the heart of the Sunni Triangle. In 2006, through 2008, things were still very "hot" in that area in particular. Our missions constantly took us to the bases in Anaconda in Balad, the base in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi and al-Asa, among the worst of them. Ramadi and Fallujah were like our home away from home, we were there so often. In 2006 two of my trucks were blown up and destroyed. At the time we were still driving Mercedes Benz cabover trucks without any additional protection on them (no steel plates or ballistic windows, etc.). The first time, my truck hit a massive IED on top of a railroad bridge. The blast lifted the cab off the ground and completely destroyed the driver side steer tire and wheel. All I could do was brake and attempt to steer, which was basically impossible, as the remains of the wheel just plowed into the roadway; all I could really do was say a quick prayer, as I prepared myself to go over the edge of the bridge. I managed to stop just shy of the edge. (All guard rails had long been flattened throughout Iraq by the US military, as a deterrent to placing IED's and explosives on them, prior to my arrival in country.) Consequently, there were no guard rails on the sides of the bridge. The insurgents had set a massive IED, and had actually set a secondary explosive, but had incorrectly wired the secondary. Secondary explosives are common practice in the hopes of getting more bang for their buck, so to speak. Typically if one is injured or killed, as ones mates arrive to aid or recover the body, the insurgents hope to take out more personnel with the secondary explosives.
    The shrapnel from the IED blew in the driver door, shattered the drivers window and windshield, pierced the floor all around me, the "A"-pillar, the dashboard, the roof, the engine, transmission, batteries, exhaust, virtually the entire cab of the truck; yet I didn't have a scratch! It happened on my wedding anniversary: 1 July 2006. When we finally arrived at the base in Fallujah, I later told my buddies on the mission, that I would've liked to have gotten banged for my anniversary, but the blast wasn't what I'd had in mind! Ha-ha! Upon our return to TQ a few days later, I put my things down on my cot in the tent and then walked to the nearby office to call my wife and wish her a belated Happy Anniversary. When I got back to the tent, my buddies asked where I had disappeared to. I told them that I just called my wife. They asked me if I'd said anything to her about the IED. I said that I'd told her. They began wishing me farewell as they were certain that my wife wanted me home ASAP. They asked me what she'd said to me; I told them that she'd asked me if I was going to do another tour of duty. They flipped; and couldn't believe it. I realized that our marriage was over at that point; I was afterall, worth more dead than alive, at least to my wife. Only about a week later while on another mission to Anaconda, we were driving through Baghdad one night, when we were ambushed while going around a road repair area; it was a perfect location for an ambush; I would have picked the same spot myself to set one up; and it indeed worked! The tangos opened up with an RPG and fired a second too late, the RPG missing my cab and hitting the trailer just forward of the trailer wheels. The RPG punctured the steel frame rails of the trailer, severing the air lines, causing the trailer wheels to lock up! I had enough speed to continue driving out of the kill zone, or at least getting my ass off of the "X", before the trailer finally brought me to a complete stop. As soon as they fired the RPG, the rest of the fun bunch, opened up with AK-47's. The blast flash from the RPG temporarily blinded the driver behind me, and he had missed the crossover to the correct side of the highway; thereby splitting our convoy up into three sections: the lead element, of which I was now the tail, had successfully crossed back over the median; the driver behind me, continued going straight on the wrong side of the highway; and the rear element had yet to cross the median at all. To add interest to the party, there was a US Army EOD team sitting on the side of the road, blacked out with their vehicle lights off. As soon as the tangos opened up on us, the Army EOD team joined the fray, and began shooting back in the general direction of the assault, with our convoy driving through the crossfire! Miraculously, none of us got a scratch. One of my buddies had his plastic construction hard hat sitting on top of the dashboard in his truck at the time of the ambush. He said that he just kept his foot on the gas pedal and pushed himself as far back against the seat as he could, as he saw his hard hat "dancing" on the dashboard as it was riddled with bullets coming through the windshield. He bought a Sharpie marker at the PX in Baghdad and passed his hard hat around for all of us to sign it, as he kept it as a souvenir.
    Late in 2006, we started to receive more protective trucks, made by International in the USA. Performance wise, they were inferior to the Mercedes; but they offered better protection as the cab portion of the truck was constructed of heavy steel plate and had ballistic windows; even the dual fuel tanks on post and starboard sides of the truck were shielded with steel plating. In 2007 my truck was hit with an Iranian EFP (explosive formed projectile). The insurgents detonated it a fraction of a second too soon, as it hit the hood of my truck. EFP's can easily pass through am armored tank; so the fiberglass hood didn't stand a chance! The projectile zipped through the hood, engine and engine block, in a millisecond; but the shock wave and concussion knocked me out. When I came too, I was still groggy and disoriented. As my head gradually began to clear, I felt a weird sensation on my chest, which gradually changed from weird, to painful; at about which time that I realized I was burning! I smothered the flame and had a burn diagonally across my chest like a seat belt; the worst part being on my upper chest.

    There were numerous other, much smaller IED's, and bullets over the years, but I only count those three major ones. I often wondered if God had some plan for me in His grand scheme of things...? While still in Iraq I found myself realizing that I'd always had an affinity with the Jewish people. But it wasn't until I returned home, that I found myself researching the Holocaust on day online. I'd always had an interest in history, particularly during WWII. But I was soon researching WWII and the Holocaust in most of my spare time whenever I was not working. I developed such an interest; and at the same time, I'd been interested in counter-terrorism for a number of years as well. I'm now finishing a Bachelor of Science in Counter-Terrorism, and plan to move on to getting a Master's in CT; then a Ph.D. in Holocaust- Genocide Studies with an emphasis on Social Psychology.

    If you wish, you may email me at: 1asterisk60@gmail.com. I have countless photos that I would be willing to share with you, that I shot while in Iraq. I have many that I took at both TQ and RAF Habbaniya that you may be interested in. I've also got a tile that I found in Qusay Hussein's palace that I brought home as a souvenir.
    Best Regards, Griz

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    Default Re: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    Welcome to the site Tim, have sent a pm [private message] to Richard who started the thread over 2yrs ago to let him know you have added to it. Happy New Year to you too.
    Last edited by Marian Gra; 30th December 2017 at 11:28 PM.

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    Default Re: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    #1... welcome as Marian says Griz. Most of it is way above my head, but your reference to your research on the holocaust shows your heart in the right place. I to share a like for the Jewish faith and their endeavours on recovering their ancient homeland. The political fallout over certain aspects of same is used as universal propaganda and has no place in the facts of the past. Cheers JWS.

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    Default Re: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    It used to be a saying at sea to youngsters and some not so young, that “ I was in Baghdad when you were in Dads Bag. “. Griz could say that in all seriousness to some of the youngsters of. Today. Cheers JWS.

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    Default Re: RAF Habbaniya, Iraq

    Hi Tim!
    Thank you very much for your post. Very interesting, and sad to hear that Habbaniya is in such a sorry state, no more than can be expected though I suppose. I did read an article on line about some US troops who did much to repair some of the damage there, tidied up the cemetery, held a service etc. All done on a voluntary basis I think, out of respect from one military service to another.
    I hope your on going research & your Masters Degree are both successful.
    I won't reply via email, thanks for the offer though.
    All the best for the future and a Happy New Year to you & yours.

    PS....

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wv4tGUcU1lI

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