American Forces Press Service
March 18, 2008 - Sewers, water, electricity, trash and fuel are services vital to any city in the United States, and urban populations simply cannot function effectively without proper city management. Members of the Oklahoma National Guard face the challenge of bringing these same services to the middle of a desert in southern Iraq. About 30 members of Oklahoma's 1st Battalion, 160th Field Artillery, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, manage a facility with a population of more than 26,000 soldiers, sailors, airmen, contractors, Defense Department civilians and detainees at Camp Bucca, Iraq. The camp sits starkly in the middle of the desert -- all commodities and goods must be trucked into the desolate base.
"We are running a city," said Army Lt. Col. David Jordan, 160th Rear Area Operations Center commander.
Many of Oklahoma's 45th soldiers work in the theatre interment facility, which holds about 20,000 detainees. The detainees are being held as an imperative threat to the country's security in accordance with a United Nations Security Council resolution.
In addition to managing services and life support for the camp, the soldiers also work to improve living conditions at the facility. "We're going to increase our gym space to 5,700 square feet," Jordan said. Other projects include a multi-sport field, boxing ring, new office space, ice factory, wastewater treatment plant, improvements to the chapel and a new housing area called Knoxville.
Among the numerous projects to be supervised and managed by the soldiers are 1,000 new beds for servicemembers. Many soldiers currently live in tents.
"We have several couples waiting on the new housing in Knoxville," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Mitchell Brickey, who supervises the housing of all troops in and out of the camp. The camp's married couples serve together, but can't currently live together due to a lack of married housing.
The Oklahomans work hand-in-hand with Iraqi contractors to oversee the construction of all new projects. "We still function on time, on target in the field artillery; any projects we've got are focused on time and on target. We will continue to get things done on time – deliver fire at the right time and right place," said executive officer Army Maj. Woody Elmore.
The camp's concrete brick-making facility is run by Iraqi contractors, and the bricks are used throughout the various construction projects on the camp. "The local Iraqi men are good to work with, and we have great cooperation with them. They take great pride in their work; it's their reputation," said Army Sgt. 1st Class Rafe Cummings.
"It's very beautiful – a system for everything, we work through the process and get what we need to do the project with the correct assets," said Ali Jihad, an Iraqi project manager. The Iraqi company lacked modernization during Saddam Hussein's reign, but "now we are bringing construction up to new standards," he added.
(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)