During the Iranian ballistic missiles that fell on the Ain al-Assad military base in Anbar last week, the soldiers gathered in hideouts for hours, fearing that the conflict might worsen, as the top American commander in Al Qaeda said, describing the attack as “unprecedented.”
During an interview with AFP at the air base, Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Garland said that his chiefs had given him “a few hours of advance warning” that an attack would happen on the night of January 7.
Iran bombed ballistic missiles at the dawn of January 8, the base of Ain al-Assad, where an American force is stationed, in response to the assassination of the commander of the “Quds Force” in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Soleimani, by an American strike in Baghdad five days before, in a turn that many feared could lead to open conflict. On Iraqi soil.
“My first reaction was shock and disbelief at first,” Garland said, questioning Iran’s ability or willingness to launch a missile attack on al-Qaeda.
This base is one of the largest Iraqi military bases, and the international coalition forces, including 1500 American soldiers, are the largest part, along with thousands of Iraqi soldiers.
Garland noted that putting these forces in a safe place was an act of quick thinking and coordination between army and air force leaders in Ein al-Assad.
By 23:00 (20:00 GMT), American and coalition forces had gone out of their sleep wards and offices, and had either hidden in fortified warehouses or dispersed throughout the base.
They waited in tension, for more than two hours.
But even their leader did not expect the force of the explosions that occurred after that. “When the first wave fell, it was the loudest and strongest bang I’ve ever heard,” Garland told France Presse.
“There was something abnormal in the air. The way he was moving and the way the place had warmed up. The pressure wave that slammed the door and pulled it out of its place.”
Starting at 01:35 (22:30 GMT) and for the next three hours, five ballistic missile launches were launched at the base, at various times.
– “I didn’t hide like that for a long time.” –
“I have not hidden it for a long time. A long time ago,” said Garland, who has served several times in Iraq.
“We did not know what the strike would look like, or whether it would have the effect of carpet bombing,” he added.
When the bombing calmed down, at about 4 am, commanders and soldiers left their shelters to see fires burning all over the base, and more than a dozen sites were hit by rockets, but – miraculously – there were no casualties.
There were two soldiers in guard towers who pushed them outside their positions, but they suffered only concussion.
“How did you survive? It was a miracle from God,” Garland said.
He added that the waves that struck the base were temporary in a way that made the soldiers think that the shelling had ended.
“The time from one wave to the next was just enough time to make you feel safe. In my opinion, it was aimed at inflicting injuries.”
By Monday, the bombing sites had been cleaned, and bulldozers were lifting the last twisted metal and debris at one of the base sites.
It was clear that one of the soldiers’ homes had been completely destroyed, and the smell of molten metal still smelled of it.
The soldiers who were at the base that night told France Press that they had lost all of their personal belongings, including clothes, books, photos of their families and souvenirs that they had carried with them for more than a decade in the army.
But given the severity of the missile strikes, Garland said that was pure luck.
“A theater of ballistic missile strikes? This is unprecedented,” he added. is over