Tikrit Air Academy
Al Sahra Airfield
|Ministry of Defence|
Camp Speicher, officially known as the Tikrit Air Academy and formerly as FOB Speicher, COB Speicher, and Al Sahra Airfield (under Saddam Hussein) is an air installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq. The installation is approximately 170 kilometers north of Baghdad and 11 kilometers west of the Tigris River. The United States Army captured the base from the Iraqi Army during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and used it during the Iraq War as the headquarters of the United States Division–North (USD-N, formerly Multinational Division, North, (MND-N)). The airfield is served by two main runways measuring 9,600 feet (2,900 m) long with a shorter runway measuring 7,200-foot (2,200 m). The Americans named the airfield after Captain Michael Scott Speicher, a United States Navy pilot who was killed in action in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. Prior to the 2003 invasion, Al Sahra Airfield was the main base of the Iraqi Air Force Air Academy.
Capture by United States forces
During the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the main runway and some taxiways were cut by bomb hits, and the large main hangar structure was blown up. The remains of the other large hangar next to it burned down in a large fire in July 2003.
The original unit to take control of the base was 1-10th Cavalry of the 4th Infantry Division. The base was then handed over to the 4th Aviation Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division in the second week of the war. The Americans originally christened the base Forward Logistics Base (FLB) Sycamore, but the name was later changed to Forward Operating Base Speicher and then Contingency Operating Base Speicher. The name was changed in honor of Scott Speicher, an American pilot who was shot down in the 1991 Gulf War.
Occupation by United States forces
American soldiers, civilians, and contractors had access to a variety of amenities over the course of the United States' occupation of the base. The base had a large Post Exchange (PX), as well as several American fast food restaurants, including Subway, Burger King, and Pizza Hut.
Units that have been based at COB Speicher include the (2003–2004) 4th Infantry Division 1-4 Aviation, 4th Infantry Division 2-4 Aviation, 42nd Infantry Division (Mechanized), 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), elements of the 1st Infantry Division (Mechanized), 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized), 25th Infantry Division (Light), 13th Corps Support Command, B Co. 3/58th Aviation Battalion (Pathfinders), 287th Transportation Company (HET), 300th Quartermaster Company (Illinois Reserve Unit under the 88th RCS), 50th Main Support Battalion; Company B, 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 434th Main Support Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, HHC, Company A and Company B, 136th Signal Battalion(Texas Army National Guard), Company D, 111th Signal Battalion(South Carolina Army National Guard), HHC, Company B, Company D, 57th Signal Battalion, [141st Medical Company (GA) Connecticut Army National Guard unit, Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, 555th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, 232d CSB and others. The 1404th Transportation Company (PLS) from the Arizona Army National Guard was stationed there in 2003 under the 4th Infantry Division, 743rd Maintenance Company Florida National Guard. 164th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron from the Ohio Air Guard. During 2004-2005, 167th Corps Support Group/94th RRC, 12th Chemical Company, 701st MSB, 1st Infantry Division supported transportation and logistic units based at FOB Speicher supported US units in Kirkuk, Mosul and 5 subordinate bases. The 467th Engineer Battalion from the U.S. Army Reserves were stationed here under both the 42nd Infantry Division and 3rd Infantry Division between 2004 and 2005, as was the 313th Medical Company of the Nebraska National Guard. The 232nd Corps Support Battalion of the Illinois Army National Guard, 323rd Maintenance Company (DS), 454th Transportation Company from the U.S. Army Reserves, and elements of USAF 1058th Air Expeditionary Force Transportation Company of the 13th Corps Support Command of the Multi-National Corps, Iraq. Elements of the 3rd Squadron of the Tennessee National Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment were stationed at COB Speicher under the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) as convoy security units from February 2010 until July 2010. Elements of the Ohio National Guard's 16 Engineering Brigade were stationed here from 2003 through 2005 and helped bring the structures and roadways of the base to livable conditions. Elements of the Kentucky National Guard (including the 149th Infantry Brigade, 2113th Transportation Company) were stationed at FOB Speicher from 2004 though 2006. 88th RRC was stationed here from 2004 to 2005. HHS/6-27 FA (HET) was stationed at COB Speicher from October 2005 to September 2006 and conducted a handover with the 1461st CBT HET of the Michigan Army National Guard was stationed here, and provided support for the troop surge in the stabilization of Iraq during 2006-2007.
In 2007-2008, the 111th Engineer Brigade of the West Virginia Army National Guard was headquartered within the "Badgerville" section of COB Speicher. Serving under the 25ID and later the 1AD, the 111th Engineer Brigade conducted engineer missions throughout Multi-National Division North (MND-N).
Back to Iraqi Control
The US Army left COB Speicher in October 2011 as part of the general withdrawal of US Forces. Camp Speicher is currently used by the Iraqi Army and Air Force.
By mid June 2014, Tikrit was overrun by the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Iraqi Air Force cadets claimed that many of the camp's officers fled as ISIS approached, and, as a result, several thousand Shiite cadets and other personnel abandoned their uniforms and began to walk toward Baghdad. Several miles from the camp, they were confronted and taken prisoners by approximately fifty ISIS militants in armored vehicles. Following their capture, about 1700 were killed in mass shooting executions. A video released by ISIS in July showed the executions done in several locations including shooting the cadets in trenches and thhen throwing the bodies in the River Tigris. In early September, corpses were seen floating on the surface. Very few managed to escape unharmed and survive.
Camp Speicher was contested throughout the summer of 2014. The Daily Telegraph reported in June that Speicher was at one point under the control of ISIS, but according to later accounts, ISIS never captured the airfield. On 17 July, following the Iraqi Army's defeat in the First Battle of Tikrit, insurgents launched an assault on the camp, where an estimated 700 government soldiers and 150 Iranian or Iraqi Shiite militiamen were besieged. The assault included snipers and suicide bombers and the militants quickly managed to reach the runway, at which point Iraqi special forces joined the battle. The base was bombarded and mortared all night. By the next morning, according to various sources, the final pocket of government troops had collapsed. At least 25–35 insurgents were also killed. Iraqi forces attempted to save the base's aircraft by flying them out, but according to ISIL 8–9 helicopters were destroyed on the ground or shot down, with several armored vehicles destroyed as well. The Iraqi Army denied the alleged capture of the base with soldiers from the front line reporting that Speicher was still under their control, with only three soldiers being killed, one helicopter destroyed and two damaged. A Tikrit resident also reported continued fighting around the base. Two days later, the military reported that Iraqi special forces had re-secured the base.
- List of airports in Iraq
- List of United States Military installations in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)
- Tikrit East Airport
- Tikrit South Airport
- Dina Rasor; Robert Bauman (1 May 2007). Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-4039-8192-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=ELrXjoxifrgC&pg=PA131.
- "Second Death of the IrAF". acig.info. http://www.acig.info/CMS/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=74&Itemid=47. Retrieved 2015-07-27.
- Amy Yarsinske (1 July 2013). An American in the Basement: The Betrayal of Captain Scott Speicher and the Cover-up of His Death. Trine Day. p. 305. ISBN 978-1-937584-21-4. http://books.google.com/books?id=cfsBBAAAQBAJ&pg=PT305.
- "$5.8M to improve FOB Speicher, Iraq". Defense Industry Daily. 3 June 2008. http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/58M-to-Improve-FOB-Speicher-Iraq-04925/. Retrieved 25 July 2015.
- Pat Proctor (28 December 2011). Task Force Patriot and the End of Combat Operations in Iraq. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-60590-778-9. http://books.google.com/books?id=6L1KBAAAQBAJ&pg=PA21.
- "In Iraq, soldiers also fight battle of the bulge". cleveland.com. http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2008/11/in_iraq_soldiers_also_fight_ba.html. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- Arango, Tim (2014-09-04). "Escaping Death in Northern Iraq". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/04/world/middleeast/surviving-isis-massacre-iraq-video.html?emc=edit_th_20140904&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=27291344&_r=0. Retrieved 2014-09-04.
- Iraq: ISIS Execution Site Located | Human Rights Watch
- Richard Spencer (15 June 2014). "Iraq crisis: ISIS jihadists execute dozens of captives". Telegraph.co.uk. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iraq/10901866/Iraq-crisis-ISIS-jihadists-execute-dozens-of-captives.html. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "Islamic State overwhelms Iraqi forces at Tikrit in major defeat". miamiherald. http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/07/18/4243140/islamic-state-overwhelms-iraqi.html. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "IS-led Militants Storm Iraqi Air Base near Tikrit". Naharnet. http://www.naharnet.com/stories/en/139517-is-led-militants-storm-iraqi-air-base-near-tikrit. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "The Iraqi Army’s Alamo: Standoff in Tikrit". The Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/07/20/the-iraqi-army_s-alamo--standoff-in-tikrit.html. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "Islamic State overruns Camp Speicher, routs Iraqi forces". Longwarjournal.org. Archived from the original on 26 March 2015. http://web.archive.org/web/20150326164552/http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/07/iraqi_military_says_it_retakes.php. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "Multiple bombings in Baghdad kill at least 27". America.aljazeera.com. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/19/iraq-bombings-islamicstate.html. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- "Iraqi military says it retakes control of key base in Tikrit". Longwarjournal.org. http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2014/07/iraqi_military_says_it_retakes.php. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
- globalsecurity.org - Al Sahra Airfield
- Further reading - Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Quarterly Report to the United States Congress, April 30, 2013, p. 9, on status of Tikrit airfield
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