Last American combat brigade departs
FOB CONSTITUTION – Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of United States Forces – Iraq, and the Iraqi Minister of Defense, Abdel Qader Jassim, and other U.S. and Iraqi leaders watched yesterday as a joint color guard marched crisply across the parade field here to where their unit and national flags were displayed.
The U.S. Soldiers, members of the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division “Raiders,” knelt and removed the American flags from the display. After executing a left face, the detail marched off the field from the direction they came, leaving only the 6th Iraqi Army Division and Iraqi flag remaining on the field.
This gesture — symbolizing the departure of the Raider Brigade and the commitment of Iraqi Security Forces to the people of Iraq — brought the 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div. one step closer to the end of their yearlong deployment as the last combat brigade to serve here in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
By Aug. 31, all U.S. combat missions in Iraq will end, and the 50,000 U.S. troops remaining in country under Operation New Dawn will move toward stability operations, advising, training and assisting the ISF in building civil capacity.
The Aug. 7 departure ceremony, hosted by the 6th IA Div. served as both a farewell to the Raider Brigade and a look at the capabilities of the Iraqi Soldiers who will be assuming full responsibility for the area.
Col. John Norris, commander of 4th SBCT, stood alongside Staff Maj. Gen. Ahmed, commander the 6th IA Div., and thanked the guests in attendance for joining him in celebrating what he called, “a new chapter in the ongoing story that is Iraq’s strategic partnership.”
“Together, we have forged strong bonds of partnership and unity of effort, where the Iraqi government, the Iraqi Army and Police are connected to the people, partnered with the Federal Police, as well as the Traffic and Patrol Police forces, Sons of Iraq, [and] along with the United States Military and Department of State, created irreversible momentum toward a peaceful and prosperous Iraq,” Ahmed said.
The 4th SBCT Soldiers’ focus in Iraq was on building a strong partnership with the ISF to ensure the security of the March 7 Iraqi national elections and improving the overall quality of life for the Iraqi people.
Arriving in country in September 2009, the brigade immediately began partnering with local ISF leadership to gain a sense of their Iraqi partners’ capabilities and relationships with community leaders and other Iraqi security organizations.
Among their many achievements, 4th SBCT Soldiers introduced military working dogs to the ISF — a program that had been unsuccessful until the Raiders’ arrived — improving their ability to uncover weapons, explosives and other illegal items during raids and searches.
The latest in evidence collection and other forensic techniques was also taught to the ISF, allowing for improved site exploitation after terrorist attacks and led to the first warrant using DNA evidence to be issued in Iraq’s history.
Raider Soldiers, in conjunction with two embedded Provincial Reconstruction Teams, and partners in the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Army Corps of Engineers, strived to continue the development and reconstruction of western Baghdad, Abu Ghraib, Tajiand and Tarmiyah.
A few hundred feet away from where the departure ceremony took place was the FOB Constitution Joint Operations Center, where Norris and his ISF partners monitored the Iraqi national elections, accessing the latest on-the-ground information from polling sites throughout western Baghdad.
Another key achievement during the deployment was helping the IA expand the JOC concept to include the Iraqi Police, where they could share the latest intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance information in a centralized location.
“Together, this collective group has more successes than I can list here today, but one that I will highlight as a prime example of the strength of this partnership is the national election conducted in March,” Norris said. “After weeks of detailed preparation, long hours and security in place ... the Iraqi national elections commenced with a record turnout.”
Norris said more than 60 percent of Iraqi citizens went to the polls to cast their ballot, showing solidarity against violent extremist groups.
“I am confident that the Iraqi government will move forward, and that the hopes and the dreams of a free and stable Iraq will become a reality,” he said.
In a display for gathered dignitaries, 6th IA Soldiers presented several demonstrations showing their capabilities in handling a variety of real-world situations they may encounter.
Iraqi Soldiers cleared and secured a building, set up a traffic control point, neutralized an improvised explosive device using a remote-controlled robot and partnered with Raider Soldiers to show off hand-to-hand combat techniques.
For the Raider Soldiers, the departure ceremony marked the end of a job well done that will have a lasting impact on the people of Iraq.
“We depart having accomplished our mission to the fullest of our ability, with honor and respect [and] the Raider Brigade’s legacy and reputation intact,” Norris said. “This is only the beginning of Iraq’s continued success and forward progress.”
Well done! We're so proud of you all and eagerly await your return home!
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