It’s been quite some time since the “end” of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and the point where the last of the U.S. military’s forces egressed out of their respective AOs. But the remnants of their time here can still be found from time to time. In particular, a large footprint can be found deep in Kirkuk, at an airfield held by Peshmerga forces. This base was once known as FOB Warrior.

At one point, Warrior was a massive epicenter for military operations in the Kirkuk region. Shared by both Army and Air Force personnel, accommodations were top of the line, including a huge dining facility, recreation center, Conex housing, and more. No expense was spared. They even had an outdoor USO stage where it appears boxing matches were held, based on some of the ragtag equipment left in the storage room.

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Now it’s a shadow of its former glory, an empty shell. While perimeters and specific areas are now held by the Peshmerga, large portions of the base remain unoccupied and haven’t been touched since the U.S.’s departure, besides the occasional Pesh patrol. The Peshmerga seem to treat it as a surplus of sorts, occasionally venturing in to salvage some office furniture or a spare Conex.

The fall of Kirkuk

Read Next: The fall of Kirkuk

Walking through the old structures reminded me of a post-apocalyptic movie. Half expecting a mutant creature to jump me at any given moment, I couldn’t help but explore every nook and cranny. Looking for loot was definitely at the top of my list (I wasn’t disappointed—I scored a tourniquet and an external battery pack).

Old armories were filled with empty gun racks covered in dust, the floors covered by targets and newspapers. DFACs with empty chow lines still had the stoves and salad bars, but no patrons. Inside the rec center, I found a plethora of books and empty DVD cases. Exploring old maintenance bays and shops revealed offices with their desks still in place.

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An abandoned mosque complete with graveyard can be found on the back side; it seems that when the base was erected, the military just built around it and declared it a sacred historical site. It was sundown when I got there, making the experience that much more creepy. Being careful to walk only on the concrete paths, I was able to take a look. It almost seemed symbolic given the current state of the base.

The signatures of soldiers cover doors and walls inside places of work. Unit emblems are still painted on building walls. They’re slowly eroding from weather and time. The place has an eerie vibe and gave me a nostalgic glimpse of a time long past—a ghost of a war that has evolved into a new conflict.