United States Division-South handed over two locations to the Government of Iraq this month as part of the drawdown of forces in Basra Province.

Sameer Alhaddad, a representative of the prime minister's chief of staff, flew from Baghdad to sign for the closing of Safwan Hill and the partial return of Camp Bucca.

Safwan Hill is an outpost situated just north of the Kuwaiti border. Sitting atop the only hill for miles made the location a prime choice for a communications and observation post. Its closure involved the removal of all property from the hill, including force protection barriers, housing units, and generators.

The partial return of Camp Bucca keeps pace with the phased return of the base to Iraqi control.

"As part of Partnered Base Returns, portions of Bucca remain under USF control and operations while the base is returned to full Iraq control," said Chief Warrant Officer Lee Morris, 1st Infantry Division Engineer Technician.

Handing over control of larger bases to Iraqis makes the process of returns easier, said Morris, a Monticello, Fla. native.

By working with units that will be taking over the space previously used by U.S. forces, property can be turned over instead of removed and the cleanup of materials can be smoother.

Bucca's return to Iraqi control is taking place in three phases, the first of which occurred today.

Camp Bucca once served as a detention center, which closed on September 17, 2009. The site of the Bucca facility will be used by the Iraqi Marines.

The next phase of the return is the water treatment plant, scheduled for September, with the rest of the base to be returned in early 2011.

As Partnered Returns take, place the safety and capabilities of Soldiers will not be affected, Morris said.

"Force protection is a major issue and is important. Ensuring that for a Partnered Return that force protection for U.S. Soldiers is taken care of is the top priority," Morris said.

In January, USD-S maintained 58 bases; by September 1, that number will be reduced to 34.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16