Property Management in a Combat Zone: In the Trenches of Forward It Operating Base Shield, Glidad Iraq

Article excerpt

IN AUGUST OF 2O08, returning from a patrol of the streets of Baghdad, and within 200 meters of entering Forward Operating Base IFOBl Shield, the 4th Brigade Combat Team was ambushed by IEDs and small arms fire resulting in casualties. First responders and Quick Reaction Forces IQRFsl immediately came to their aid only to be hit again by a secondary attack--resulting in more casualties. The coalition forces and contractors mobilized as trained. The ambushed unit and the combined Shield forces killed the attackers, secured the patrol casualties and moved them back to the base. Casualties were treated quickly and efficiently, evacuations by air were made expeditiously and the incident resolved. Unfortunately, there were nearly a dozen casualties, both wounded and killed.

What is it like to be a property manager in the trenches of a combat zone?

For sixteen months, from July 2008 to October 2009, I was the senior officer in charge of FOB Shield in eastern Baghdad, Iraq. Shield (also later known as Joint Security Station Shield or JSS Shield) is now closed and turned over to the Iraqi government, as were all the military bases in Iraq at the end of 2011. Shield was a 50-acre complex with a fenced and guarded perimeter of more F2 miles. The building square footage was never measured, but conservatively exceeded 5 million square feet. At the height of the Iraq War, there were more than 580 FOBs operating like Shield in Iraq, and more than 350 in Afghanistan, ranging from having a few hundred to 30,000 operational personnel. All required the same meticulously detailed supervision, property and facility management as Shield.

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While many of the property management tasks were similar to such work anywhere--budgets, capital improvement projects, tenant complaints, daily tenant services, and security and emergency management challenges--these common tasks were accentuated by the fact that some of the neighbors were seriously dangerous, and frequently tried to kill tenants.

DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS

The advisors and trainers for the Ministry of Interior (Mol) as well as the contiguous Baghdad Police Academy, walked daily to Shield for work. Also housed at Shield were the primary advisors who developed the judicial capability of Iraq, as well as a significant coalition intelligence capability. The 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, conducted security patrols and emergency military responses from Shield. In all, during my tenure at any given time, more than 2,500 coalition forces and contractors operated from Shield.

The neighborhood of Shield was not friendly. Shield had, on occasion, been the target of mortar and rocket fire that caused coalition casualties. To the northeast, just a quarter mile, was Sadr City, which harbored numerous deadly and active insurgents for many years. Automatic gunfire, Improvised Explo sive Devices (IEDs) and detonating car bombs could be heard, and often even felt, exploding nearby day and night close to Shield.

In any given direction, we had unique and dangerous neighbors:

* NORTHEAST: The Ministries of Oil and Ministry of Finance

* SOUTH: A maximum security Iraqi prison

* SOUTHEAST: Olympic-style Shaab Soccer Stadium

* SOUTHWEST: The Ministry of Interior

Shield was approximately 1.5 miles northwest from the old city of Baghdad and north from the Tigris River. Across the Tigris was the Green Zone--the semi-secure enclave of the coalition forces and the location of the U.S. and other international embassies--as well asthe seat of government of the Republic of Iraq. I commuted regularly by both ground transport and helicopter to the Green Zone for meetings and work with my senior headquarters.

AMENITIES

Shield had its own dining facility (DFCS); medical clinic (two each: one for service members and one for part of the contractual staff); fire department and station; "City Hall" (Mayor's Cell); Post Exchange; laundry; billeting management office, including permanent parties and transients; non-denominational chapel; vehicle maintenance facilities; and other small shops and services. …