Seabees building 1st ID command post
March 14, 2003
MARDIN, Turkey — 1st Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. John Batiste is preparing to plant his headquarters flag about 100 miles from the Iraqi border, as the U.S. military continues preparations for a northern invasion force through Turkey.
Batiste, head of the Army’s logistics effort in Turkey, has been leading a 3,500-strong site preparation task force from Incirlik Air Base, just off Turkey’s coast.
The move deep into Turkey’s interior is one of the most significant signs that Pentagon war planners have not given up hope on approval of about 62,000 U.S. combat troops to come through Turkey.
Establishment of the headquarters compound is the latest in a surge of U.S. military activity in the area to lay the groundwork for that force.
Troops such as Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Dooley, a Navy Seabee, are getting the heavy lifting done to set up Batiste's headquarters.
“It’s wild being here,” a wide-eyed and eager Dooley said Tuesday as troops unloaded a bulldozer from among about a dozen flatbed trailers full of heavy construction gear and supplies.
On Monday night, a platoon of 1st Infantry Division soldiers was the first to move into the dilapidated concrete warehouse: its faded yellow and blue paint, broken windows and muddy staging area, all reminders of how much work needs to done before Batiste can move in.
A spokesman for U.S. forces in Turkey declined to comment when Batiste will move, saying only that Batiste is “prepared to reposition as necessary.”
After unloading tall stacks of bottled water, boxes of field rations and other supplies from two 5-ton trucks, the Big Red One soldiers wasted little time setting up guard posts.
The next day a contingent of Turkish commandos augmented security at the new outpost as Seabees began unloading their gear.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” said Dooley, part of a 200-strong Seabee contingent from the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4, deployed from Port Hueneme, Calif. “This is going to be our gig for at least the next few weeks — it’s just good to finally be doing it.”