MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Memphis attorney who served in the U.S. Army talked with WMC Action News 5 about his time on the Al-Asad Air Base in Iraq. Aaron Neglia’s battalion was assigned to the base between 2004 and 2008.
Al-Asad is in the western part of the country, about 100 miles from Baghdad. Built in the 1980’s to accommodate 5,000 Iraqi personnel, Al-Asad is a fortified military base with an airport, barracks, shelters and a hospital. The facility is staffed by Iraqi soldiers but also houses U.S. and coalition forces.
“It was like a city with a hospital and movie theater," said Neglia. "They have a pool. Non-combat soldiers were stationed there. They had Taco Bell, which was a treat to go there. They had Pizza Hut. It’s very developed. It was almost like an American base on American soil.”
Neglia says supplies for U.S. troops patrolling in nearby cities came in and out of Al-Asad. The base was also the target of attacks by militants, something Neglia remembers vividly.
“I’ll tell you, there’s nothing like a rocket or mortar flying over your head or hearing the whistle over your head then exploding next to you. It’s an experience that you don’t forget," he said.
Missiles are more dangerous than rockets and today’s missiles have a much more sophisticated targeting system. Military experts say never before have the Iranians fired ballistic missiles at U.S. positions in Iraq, not during the 2003-2011 occupation, nor the return of U.S. forces to Iraq in 2014.
The Pentagon confirms the Iranians fired about a dozen missiles at Al-Asad and another Iraqi base, Erbil, in the northern part of the country on Tuesday. The IRGC, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, claimed responsibility for the operation dubbed “Operation Martyr Soleimani” in retaliation for the U.S. attack that killed Iranian military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani.
“I’m sure no solider wants to say they’re scared,” said Neglia. “But yeah, it’s a little scary going through that. I’m sure this is going to escalate things.”
Late Tuesday, President Trump tweeted that he planned to address U.S. citizens about the attack on Wednesday.