NAPLES, Italy — U.S. troops are moving out of Iraq en masse ahead of the end-of-December withdrawal deadline.
To help move all those people and materiel, the Air Force announced earlier this month that it had reopened a base in the region. But where in the region?
The Air Force release refers only to “an undisclosed location in Southwest Asia” that was shuttered in 2004 and recently revived.
“When I first saw the dining facility that I was supposed to set up, the building had near a half an inch of dirt and sand in it. Critters were running around in here,” Tech. Sgt. Reginald Morrison, command food services manager for U.S. Air Forces Central Command, was quoted in the release as saying. “Within four days, we took this place and had it ready for service. My goal is that when our follow-on forces arrive, they won’t be able to tell how this place looked before we got here.”
But, again, where is “here”?Southwest Asia can mean a lot of places.
AFCENT spokeswoman Capt. Melissa Milner is staying mum.
“We have host nation sensitivities to consider and cannot specifically answer the questions you asked,” Milner said in an email.
Air Force public affairs officers have used “Southwest Asia” for years when airmen are deploying to or returning from locales like Afghanistan and Qatar.
“To respect the privacy of our neighbors, we cannot go into details as far as basing is concerned,” Maj. Gen. Russ Handy, commander of 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force-Iraq and director of the Air Component Coordination Element-Iraq,said in a statement provided by Milner. “But there is and will continue to be a repositioning of assets within the region. A number of our assets will redeploy back to the United States and become part of that normal deployment cycle, and others will go to neighboring countries as necessary.”
According to the Air Force release, the “undisclosed location” was formerly home to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Group before it closed down. Photos with the Sept. 4 release show an empty swimming pool at the now-reinvigorated base inlaid with tiles that read “332 The Legend Continues.”
The online defense repository globalsecurity.org states the 332nd worked out of Ahmed al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, from at least late 2002, spent a brief time headquartered at Iraq’s Tallil Air Base, then unfurled its flag at Balad Air Base, Iraq, in January 2004.
So, after a bit of informal sleuthing,this Stripes reporter is betting a fistful of dinar on "The Jab," Ahmed al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait. You're welcome.