In the 1980s Balad Air Base was named Al-Bakr Air Base and was one of the major airfields in Iraq. April 2003, the base was captured by U.S. forces and renamed Camp Anaconda. The base was nicknamed Mortaritaville due to the frequency of incoming mortars. Mortaritaville is a play on the song, Margaritaville. Other nicknames for the base were Life Support Area Anaconda or the Big Snake as it was the main logistical hub for U.S. forces. The U.S. Army oversaw the base until mid-2008 when it was redesignated as a joint base. The U.S. Air Force assumed control. Over 28,000 military personnel and 8,000 civilian contractors were housed on the base. The US forces had access to two Base/Post Exchanges, fast food courts including Subway, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Burger King, Green Beans Coffee, a Turkish café, an Iraqi bazaar, multiple gyms, and an Olympic size swimming pool. Today, Balad Air Base is an Iraqi Air Force Base.
This week we salute T.K. Kantner. T.K. served in the U.S. Air Force for 21 years. He retired in 2011. His military occupational specialty was airfield systems. He was stationed in Oklahoma, Guam, the Azores, back to Oklahoma and then Wisconsin. He had three deployments during his time in the Air Force. Furthermore, he served in Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone in Southern Iraq. T.K. was deployed to Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in November 2001, assisting in setting up the airfield at Mazar Sharif. From January 2003 to June 2003, he was deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and in December 2003 to June 2004, stationed at Camp Anaconda (Balad, Iraq). Interesting enough I was stationed at Camp Anaconda from May 2004 to November 2004, before moving to Baghdad, Iraq. One of his most memorable times was when he worked at the Non-commissioned Officers (NCO) club as the doorman. He was shocked when Travis Berdahl from Forsyth, Montana walked in the door. Small world. He is married to Angela. They have two children, a son, and a daughter. They opened the Rusty Dog in Forsyth, MT in 2020 and will be celebrating their three-year anniversary in November.