On the Ground: Forces Mark Progress in Iraq Security Transfer
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 29, 2009 As the security agreement deadline looms, U.S. and Iraqi forces celebrated the transition of security in Iraq’s cities from coalition to Iraqi control and commemorated the transfer of a combat outpost and security station.
Sameer Al-Haddad, receivership secretariat and representative to the prime minister, and Army Capt. Timothy Stephenson commemorate the signing over of Joint Security Station Aziziyah to the Iraqi army in Wasit province, Iraq, June 23, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Allison Churchill
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The U.S.-Iraq security agreement calls for the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraqi cities by tomorrow and all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by 2011.
In Diyala province, Iraqi officials and coalition leaders from the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team and the 25th Infantry Division celebrated the transition of security in the cities from coalition to Iraqi control during a June 25 ceremony in Baqubah.
"This event certainly displays the high degree of cooperation made by the Iraqi security forces and the coalition in recent history," said Army Maj. Chris Hyde, public affairs officer for the combat team. "The Iraqi army and police force have improved dramatically in their ability to provide security for the people and communities of the province. As coalition forces pull out of the region's cities, we leave the people of Diyala in the strong, capable and energetic hands of the Iraqi security forces."
Also in Diyala province, U.S. forces transferred Combat Outpost Mullalah to the 5th Iraqi Army Division on June 25.
The outpost had been home to soldiers of the 25th Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, since September.
A major staging area for U.S. soldiers, coalition forces will continue to have a presence there when teaming with their Iraqi counterparts.
“Now is the right time for [COP Mullalah] to be turned over to the very capable 4th Battalion [5th Iraqi Army Division]," said Army Lt. Col. Matthew Anderson, commander of the 2-8 FA. "This is symbolic of a much bigger change."
Elsewhere, Iraqi forces assumed control of Joint Security Station Aziziyah in Wasit province during a June 23 ceremony.
Soldiers of Battery C, 1st Battalion, 77th Field Artillery Regiment, 172nd
Brigade Combat Team, handed over the security station to 2nd Company, 2nd Battalion,
32nd Iraqi Army Brigade.
"This ceremony symbolizes the progress made over the past month," said Army Col. Dick Francey, 41st Fires Brigade commander and commander of American troops in Wasit province.
Francey expressed his confidence in the Iraqis’ ability to provide security in the region. "I know you will do wonderful things," he said. "Insurgencies in the area have gone to the ground and they better stay down or the Iraqi army will take them down again."
The Cobra Battery soldiers moved onto the station in March and improved living conditions alongside rotating Iraqi army units.
Another transfer is in the planning stages. U.S. leaders met with a Salahuddin provincial director general June 20 to discuss the transfer of Forward Operating Base Brassfield-Mora, known by local Iraqis as the “Silo,” from U.S. forces back to residents of Samarra.
"It is important that the [next] unit realizes that they need to be out of the Silo by early 2010. The issue is very important to agriculture in Samarra," said Army Lt. Col. David Snodgrass, deputy commanding officer of the division’s 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.
Promoting agricultural development is one of the brigade's main efforts, and returning a major grain storage area back to the Iraqi government will greatly assist local farmers, officials said.
The long-term goal is to turn over the entire base, but in stages. Parts of the base will be sectioned off by T-wall barriers and returned to the city of Samarra to begin reconstruction of the grain storage areas. One of the first areas to be turned over comprises three buildings and a scale that remains from when the silo was operational.
"This place is in a key location for local farmers to turn in their grains," said Bahaa Naja Ali, the director general of seeds and grains, explaining the impact the silo’s return will have on local agriculture. The Samarra silo is one of the main storage areas for wheat and other grains harvested in the province.
Also marking progress, the Iraqi Army Senior Non-Commissioned Officer Academy in Taji graduated 38 in its first class of drill sergeants June 21. The 21-day Iraqi Army Drill Sergeant Course is designed to provide drill sergeants with the knowledge, skills and abilities to conduct high-quality training.
Marine Corps Command Sgt.Maj. Daniel C. Terwilliger, senior enlisted advisor for Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, delivered the graduation speech. The graduation represented a vital component of Iraq's progress toward a more capable and professional NCO Corps, he said.
(Army Sgt. Allison Churchill of 41st Fires Brigade contributed to this article. Compiled from Multinational Corps Iraq, Multinational Division South and Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news releases.)