Joint Base Balad was one of the multitude of military installations maintained and used by the United States of America in Iraq. It was known under multiple names, including Balad Air Base, Al Bakr Air Base, Camp Anaconda or LSA Anaconda. The base was one of the widest ones run by the Americans. Its history was pretty small, as it was then disestablished after the official withdrawal from 2011. It was handed back to the new Iraqi government. The base was located about 65 kilometers away from Baghdad and could easily host more than 36,000 individuals. During its peak, it hosted about 28,000 military troops and more than 8,000 civilian contractors and employees. It was also among the bases with the most advanced facilities, not to mention about its attraction towards politicians, authorities, officials and celebrities.
Prior to being taken over by the United States of America, Joint Base Balad was the largest and most significant base in the Iraqi Air Force during the leadership of Saddam Hussein. It was initially commissioned as Al Bakr Air Base, in the memory of the Iraqi president who led the country between 1968 and 1979 – Ahmed Hassan Al Bakr. The activity at this base was never too low. It hosted some of the most advanced aircrafts in the Iraqi Air Force, including MIG 23 fighters and a few other squadrons and brigades. The base was always active enough as if the country was at war.
Among the military personnel, Joint Base Balad was popular for something else though – the HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelters) the Yugoslavian troops raised during the war between Iraq and Iran, from 1980 to 1988. The base hosted four such areas, two of them for each of the runways – one in the front and one in the back. Each such area could host about thirty shelters.
The American domination began after the Iraq invasion. It was one of the most important centers the Americans decided to take over. It also played a major role in the catch of Saddam Hussein and the fights against the Iraqi warriors. The 332-nd Air Expeditionary Wing and the 310-th Sustainment Command were the main two units hosted on site. One of them belonged to the United States Army, while the other one was operated by the United States Air Force. The base was under the jurisdiction of the US Army until 2009. When the US Air Force stepped in too, it adopted a joint status and was renamed to what it is today.
The American domination over Joint Base Balad ended in December, 2011, when the forces were slowly withdrawing from the area. The Iraqi Air Force took over from there.
Joint Base Balad benefited from some of the best facilities. It was almost a luxurious installation. The military troops had access to swimming pools, dancing lessons, a movie theater, American restaurants and snack bars. The housing facilities were just as advanced. The facilities were probably some of the most important factors that drew the celebrities and officials’ attention during their visits.