Thursday, July 23, 2009

Changes in the IZ

In several posts recently, I've talked about changes that are taking place in Iraq, and especially here in Baghdad. They're being driven by the Security Agreement that was signed last fall, Iraqi eagerness to take control of their own country, and the improving security situation. There are a lot of things going on right here in the International Zone that are part of this.

For one thing, my command, the Gulf Region Division (GRD) of the US Army Corps of Engineers, is moving. We're leaving the IZ, where we've been for five years, and going out to Victory Base, which is the huge military operation out at the airport. Some offices have already left. Mine will be one of the last. Good thing, too, since the first couple of groups have had plenty of, shall we say, "learning experiences". Meaning their moves were all screwed up and I'm learning what NOT to do! It's already strange to walk through offices that were bustling with activity just a few days ago. Now there might just be a few boxes of assorted cables on the floor, plus an odd sheet of paper here or there, and an unplugged clock stuck at 11:42. In a few more weeks, all our operations will be gone and a crew will start dismantling and removing all our remaining facilities, the grounds will be cleaned up, and the T-walls will go away. By October it'll belong to the Iraqi government again.

The same thing is happening across the street at the Ibn Sina Hospital. This was originally built for Saddam Hussein's personal medical staff. During the worst of the conflict, it had one of the busiest emergency rooms in Baghdad, with helicopters constantly bringing new patients in and taking old ones out. Now the outpatient clinic has closed, replaced by another over at Camp Prosperity (also here in the IZ; it'll be here for a couple of years). The rest of the hospital will close in a couple of weeks and move to a new facility at Sather Air Force Base, which is also out at the airport.

There's a base literally across the street from the Embassy known as Union III. It was home to a lot of little shops, with rug dealers, jewelry, pirated DVDs, and the famous Oasis pizza shop. All of these have closed and their spaces are being renovated for offices. The stores are not gone, however: they are moving to the mausoleum at the other end of the base. Yes, a mausoleum. Hey, when you don't have a lot of choices, you use what you've got! Some of the stores are already open in their new location while others are still moving. Meanwhile, new housing units and other facilities are coming into the base and it is getting extremely busy. Union III will be one of the last bases to close down as we pull out of Iraq.

So that's a glimpse of what's going on here. We're drawing down, and the organizations that will remain for a while are moving to one of the few large bases. Many of these organizations will go away within the next year. And if you think we're dragging our feet, think again: the pace is actually accelerating. My command was planning on making some significant changes in the March timeframe, but that's just been pushed up to October. And that seems to be the way everything is going.


Julyan said...

Interesting. Thanks Skip.

Giannagirl said...

It is hard to see things dismantled, isn't it? Tell me my friend, how is the security? The reports from my alternate security folk have me thinking...

Please take care in your travels and know that you have a lot of people thinking and praying for you and yours'. All my best to everyone.

October ~ hmmmmm, then what?