AL ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq: more than two hours before Iran fired its first missile salvage against the large base here in western Iraq last week, US soldiers took refuge in concrete bunkers that once belonged to the army of Saddam Hussein.
Captain of the Air Force.
A 34-year-old man from Alabama said he had sent a message to his wife telling him that he loved her before seeking refuge in one of the bunkers, where there were no telephone or radio connections. Some soldiers said they played the Uno card game and even fell asleep while they waited to see what would happen.
The missiles began crashing into the base, which houses the largest number of US troops from any facility in Iraq, around 1:30 a.m. last Wednesday, opening craters on the surface of the airfield and burning metal containers. The staff is still cleaning the debris.
"We could feel the shock wave and when the impact hit, the bunker doors sank," said the Air Force Lieutenant Colonel.
"My personal opinion is that they really wanted to target our (air) assets and if by chance they killed the Americans in the process, that was fine for them."
The day before, some of the approximately 1,500 US troops stationed in Al Asad had been relocated to other bases to limit exposure based on information that suggested an attack was probably imminent. They have largely returned to the base.
The U.S. Army The US, which maintains a worldwide network of sensors and radar systems, said its detection technology and defensive measures alerted US forces to the impending Iranian attack and allowed at least an hour for US forces to prepare and cover themselves.
US officials in Al Asad said they had information that Iran was prepared to retaliate for the selective murder of the Major General.
January 3 The attack that killed the Iranian commander unleashed a wave of anti-American sentiments, raising doubts about the future of the US presence in Iraq and the fight against the Islamic State.
Immediately after the attack, the Iranian Foreign Minister
He said in a tweet that Al Asad had been attacked because it served as a launching pad for the attack that killed Mr. Soleimani.
With a perimeter of about six miles, the base is part of a larger facility that houses Iraqi troops. It also houses a smaller contingent of Norwegian, Polish and Danish troops.
Days before the strike hit Al Asad, supporters of Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia had attempted to storm the US embassy in Baghdad. That was after the US UU. He would attack the group's bases along the Syrian border, after blaming the militia for a rocket attack against a base that housed coalition troops in northern Iraq that killed an American contractor.
There were no victims in Iran's attack on Al Asad and the NCO
33, who is responsible for securing the base's Reaper drones, which are used for aerial surveillance, said there was no damage to any assets.
But the soldiers who experienced the attack described moments of fear when they were attacked.
Lieutenant Colonel Coleman said he had been informed around 9 p.m. of the expected missile attack and began to evacuate about half of the 200 people under his command at 10 p.m. Then he sought refuge in a bunker about 300 meters from the place where one of the missiles would land.
who was in charge of coordinating the emergency response when the Iranian attack occurred, said he had instructed the base to close at 11 p.m. on Tuesday.
"In fact, we received some things earlier in the day that let us know that we needed to reposition our forces," said Lt. Col. Chase.
At 11:30 p.m., he issued the order for everyone to go down to the bunkers. The people who guarded the perimeter of the base remained on duty in case the missile attack was the precursor to a ground attack.
The first missile bombing hit the base around 1:30 a.m. on Wednesday and continued at intervals for the next two hours. Lt. Col. Chase said the missiles could be detected between four and five minutes before they reached their targets.
Most missiles hit an airfield, exploding craters about 20 feet in diameter and four to five feet deep in the ground. The impact knocked down the walls of nearby portable buildings.
While the soldiers crouched, unable to communicate with the troops on the surface, they did not know what was happening and feared that someone might have died.
"That was a big part of the uncertainty," said Captain Brown, adding that he and 30 other soldiers counted five incoming missile discharges.
At dawn, they left after a knock on the bunker door indicated that the danger had passed.
"My nerves were shot," he said.
When examining the damage on Monday, while excavators collected the shattered metal structures of huge tents that generally house airplanes, he recognized Iran's capabilities. "It's impressive. Precision is not outside the realm of skills."
Iran said it did not intend to kill anyone with the attacks, although some soldiers disputed the claim.
"You are in a region full of conflict," Sgt said first
42, which, like many of the older military, has already been deployed in Iraq.
At least one of the missiles landed in an area that had been used as housing. A fire had burned and melted metal containers that serve as dormitories and the force of the explosion knocked down four-ton walls of explosion.
"We were in real danger here," said Lt. Col. Chase.
In recent months, Al Asad and other bases that house US troops have become magnets for rocket attacks in which Iraqi security forces have been injured and that the United States has attributed to Iraqi militias backed by Iran.
Lt. Col. Coleman described these attacks as pebbles compared to the impact of Iranian missiles. When asked about the potential of Iran's future attacks, he said: "There is a part of me that is worried."
Write to Isabel Coles at [email protected]
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