Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes is located in the Northern Iraqi province of Ninewah a few miles outside of Tall’Afar. The base was used as an established outpost for United States combat and tactical operations during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a forward operating base, Skyes was designed to be mission specific, amenities like runways, hospitals and chow halls are optional additions, not necessities. All FOB’s are meant to work in tight collaboration with nearby FOB’s, combat outposts (COB’s) and major installations like airfields.
FOB Sykes was a former Iraqi airfield, which following the initial US invasion, was quickly appropriated by the Army. The accessibility for aircraft and strategic location made it a clear choice for troop occupation. Tall’Afar was also one of the most active insurgent areas of Iraq. In addition to hostilities with US troops, the local insurgent population has been in a continual battle with the local population of Turkmen. Religious differences between the Turkmen and Islamic nationalists have led to multiple instances of suicide bombings, car bombings, small arms fire and indirect fire attacks. To many Islamic groups, the presence of Turkmen serves as a further representation of American presence and regime change.
The location of FOB Sykes was, and continues to still be an important factor in its strategic value. The terrain around FOB Skykes is some of the most inhospitable in the region. The surrounding deserts are vast, bone dry and extremely problematic for navigation. Weather in the region has also been known to change dramatically without notice. Visibility can be reduced to inches in a matter of a few seconds.
FOB Sykes played a crucial role in the days following the initial invasion of the Iraq. By 2004, FOB Sykes was taking regular part in combat operations in northern Iraq and served as a stopover point. The already in place airfield structure was utilized a great deal, and Sykes was regularly filled with Army rotary aircraft and Air Force C-130 cargo planes.
Though not regularly mentioned or well-remembered by most US forces who took part in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the FOB is well referenced by military strategist. To those who rotated through the area, FOB Sykes is remembered as a no frills desolate spot that often thrust its inhabitants directly into the action.