Balad Welcomes Back Iraqi Army

The Iraqi army is back at Joint Base Balad for the first time in seven years. The 4th Battalion, 17th Army Brigade is the first of several Iraqi units to return to the base, which has been USAF’s largest operating hub and a major Army installation during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The entire base will be turned over to the Iraqis by the end of 2011 as part of the US military’s pullout from Iraq. On Monday, Iraqi Lt. Gen. Rashid Flayah Muhammad Al-Halifi and USAF Maj. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of Balad’s 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, signed a memorandum of understanding formalizing the partnership. They also held an opening ceremony for the Iraqi army’s new facilities. “This is another level of partnership and the first step of many steps leading up to the turnover of this base,” said Franklin. (Balad report by SSgt. Phillip Butterfield)