U.S. returns more of airport to Iraqis
January 22, 2010
COB BASRA, Iraq (Army News Service, Jan. 22, 2010) -- The eventual drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq means the handoff of various facilities all over the country.
One such facility, Basrah International Airport, was first occupied by the British in 2003.
Since then, large portions of the airport, such as the airport hotel, which once housed the British headquarters, have been returned to Iraqi control. The Iraqi Air Force's 70th Squadron even calls a part of the airport property home.
Contingency Operating Base Basra, the main U.S. base in the area and headquarters for United States Division-South, occupies the parts of the airport property that remain under non-Iraqi control.
Those areas have been receiving a makeover as part of efforts to bring the airport up to the standards necessary for receiving international certification.
In a ceremony Jan. 18, the 34th Infantry Division, which heads-up USD-S, officially handed over part of the taxiway, which will allow 747s and larger airplanes to use the airport in the future. Without it, the planes would have no place to turn onto the runways, said Col. Ronald Albrecht, deputy chief of staff for the 34th Infantry Division.
"This transfer is a significant step that will enable the airport to be considered in the future for international certification," said Albrecht.
Previously, those areas were used to park U.S. helicopters. In the last few months, new areas have been built on COB Basra specifically for the U.S. equipment.
"With international certification comes the possibility of more commercial passenger and cargo flights into southern Iraq," Albrecht said.
The port on the Persian Gulf allows for sea traffic, but an international airport will turn Basrah into Iraq's commerce gateway, he said.
"The airport is not facing any more problems which could affect the takeoff or landing of civil aircraft," said Abdul Amir, the general manager of BIA.
He and the Iraqi government are ready to continue renovations and improvements to regain their international certification.
"This investment is a true sign of our commitment to a long term friendship with the people of Iraq," Albrecht said.
(Sgt Francis Horton writes for 367th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)