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Iraqi troops take part in a graduation ceremony in January at Forward Operating Base Danger. U.S. forces will officially hand over the base to the Iraqi government Tuesday.
Iraqi troops take part in a graduation ceremony in January at Forward Operating Base Danger. U.S. forces will officially hand over the base to the Iraqi government Tuesday. (Terry Boyd / S&S)

When U.S. forces officially hand over Forward Operating Base Danger to the Iraqi government on Tuesday, it will be the 29th time an American base in Iraq has been relinquished. But, officials said Monday, handing over FOB Danger will be “the most significant transition of real estate thus far.”

That is in large part due to the complex’s history and singular identification with deposed ruler Saddam Hussein.

The complex is dominated by the Presidential Palace, built in 1991 for Saddam’s mother. Commanding a high spot of land on the Tigris River, the palace is the largest built by Saddam, whose birthplace is on the outskirts of Tikrit.

The entire complex includes 136 buildings on more than 1,000 acres of land, with a combined 1.5 million square feet of space, including 18 palaces.

“Soon this place that was once for only an elite few will be a place for the Iraqi people. Instead of representing how one man used Iraq’s wealth, it will represent how Iraq’s wealth can be used for its people,” Maj. Gen. Joseph J. Taluto, 42nd Infantry Division commander, said during the 42nd’s transition of authority ceremony with the 101st Airborne Division earlier this month.

American troops already have given the base a rousing send-off, capped with a “last supper” at the FOB Danger chow hall on Nov. 1. The meal was part celebration and part reflection, with food service workers liberally slinging lobster tails, crab legs, steaks and chocolate sheet cake to soldiers who had spent the better part of a year in the former palace complex.

Through most of 2005, the base was the headquarters of the New York National Guard’s 42nd Infantry Division. FOB Danger also was the site of the alleged slaying of two officers by a supply sergeant with the unit.

In February 2005, FOB Danger was passed from the 1st Infantry Division, which operated under the name Task Force Danger.

It was a bittersweet year for the Big Red One, with more than 100 soldiers killed and 1,000 wounded but great advances in combined operations with new, better-led Iraqi army units and 2,000 reconstruction projects worth about $1 billion.

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