Leader of Bashur patrollers understands importance of his job
April 10, 2003
BASHUR AIRFIELD, Iraq — While elements of the 173rd Airborne Brigade prepare to move south, the Air Force is assuming responsibility for security in and around Bashur airfield, a key logistics point for U.S. forces in northern Iraq.
Heading the Air Force security effort is Col. Erik Rundquist, who, along with 19 other Air Force personnel, parachuted into northern Iraq with Army paratroops two weeks ago.
“There are not too many bases that have been set up in Iraq,” said Rundquist, underlining the significance of the task.
Bashur is the corridor for additional troops, equipment and armored vehicles, including M1A1 Abrams tanks. U.S. military personnel in Bashur say the quicker the weapons and equipment arrive, the sooner the troops in the field can move farther south.
So it’s imperative that Bashur airfield remains secure. And that responsibility falls squarely on Rundquist and the more than 100 Air Force security personnel guarding the base.
In the past few days, Rundquist and his team, part of the 86th Expeditionary Contingency Response Group, have noticed they are being watched — and we’re not talking about the children who gleefully wave at the Americans.
“Obviously, some surveillance is going on around the airfield,” Rundquist said.
Citing a Rand Corporation study, Rundquist said 75 percent of the attacks on airfields between World War II and the mid-1990s occurred by forces taking what he calls “a standoff” approach.
Essentially, an attacking force isn’t likely to storm the gates. Instead, the attack is likely going to occur from a distance, as a mortar or sniper round.
“If I’m going to have a firefight, I want to have it way out there,” Rundquist said. “I want to make them uneasy as they [enemy forces] come forward.”
Like the Army, Rundquist is working closely with local Kurdish military leaders. Kurdish forces are working with Air Force personnel from RAF Mildenhall, England; and Ramstein Air Base, Germany; and Sembach Air Base, Germany, where Rundquist is based.
“It’s absolutely critical that I get those guys on board with us,” Rundquist said. The Kurdish Democratic Party “and the Americans have the same agenda in mind.”
Kurdish forces, he said, have been extremely cooperative. Rundquist wants to keep it that way.
“I’m not in position,” he said, “where I can make a whole lot of enemies.”