3rd Infantry Division Assumes Task Force Baghdad Mission
By Spc. Emily J. Wilsoncroft, USA
American Forces Press Service
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 28, 2005 The 3rd Infantry Division officially jumped back into action here Feb. 27, when a transition-of-authority ceremony transferred command of Task Force Baghdad from Army Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, 1st Cavalry Division commander, to Maj. Gen. William G. Webster Jr., 3rd Infantry Division commander.
"Today marks the passing of the torch for advancing the freedom of the people of Baghdad," Chiarelli said during the ceremony at Baghdad's Sahet Alihtifalat Alkubra (Ceremonial Circle) parade grounds. "The 1st Cav. drew upon the important lessons gained by those who preceded us, and our sincere wish is that we have contributed wisely to the 3rd ID in their preparation for this mission."
The 1st Cav. has had elements in Iraq since relieving 1st Armored Division soldiers. Now, after more than a year serving as Task Force Baghdad headquarters, 1st Cavalry soldiers are heading back to the United States.
With the giant crossed-swords statues looming over the parade grounds, the transition was presided over by Army Lt. Gen. John Vines, Multinational Corps Iraq commander.
"Today, we welcome Maj. Gen. William Webster and Task Force Rock of the Marne back to Iraq," Vines said. "Twenty-two months ago, your division spearheaded coalition forces' attacks as it fought its way to Baghdad, leading to the toppling of Saddam Hussein and his imposed tyranny on the Iraqi people. Twenty- two months ago, you stood on this very ground in victory."
Vines congratulated Chiarelli and the 1st Cavalry Division for a job well done, referencing Iraq's successful Jan. 30 elections and other benchmarks of progress. "Together, you and our Iraqi partners improved the way of life for the Iraqi people, conducting more than 800 civil engineering projects totaling more than $104 million in Baghdad," he said.
"You've sponsored 14 Iraqi police academies, rebuilt 600 schools, conducted more than 70 electrical projects totaling $1.8 million, and contributed $8.3 million in grants to Iraqi businesses," he continued. "Finally, under Task Force Pegasus Tutelage, the 40th Iraqi National Guard Brigade took control of its own operational area in Baghdad, marking the first time an Iraqi brigade has done so. Without question, you have positively touched every aspect of Iraqi life -- truly a phenomenal feat!"
Vines also emphasized the need to continue the hard work that began with the elections. "As great and historic a day as Jan. 30 was for the Iraqi people -- and frankly the world -- it was not the ultimate goal, which is a free and secure Iraq," Vines said. "We, the Iraqi government and the coalition, know there is still much work to be done, but Iraq's progress to date is both extraordinary and irreversible."
Chiarelli welcomed the Marne division and expressed his confidence in the division's soldiers and commander. "The 3rd ID is well trained, led by gifted officers and noncommissioned officers, and blessed with great soldiers," Chiarelli said. "The division is poised to ensure Baghdad moves powerfully toward complete self-sufficiency. The people of Baghdad have a partner in the 3rd Infantry Division as committed to the mission as any they will ever see on their streets.
"Major General Webster, you've been a great friend to the Cav.," Vines said. "And I know that the people of Baghdad will embrace you and your soldiers as warmly as they have the 1st Cav.
"Baghdad has a special place in the history of the world, and it stands on the precipice of greatness once again," he added.
Upon taking command of TF Baghdad, Webster acknowledged the responsibility given to him and the Marne soldiers and accepted the mission at hand. "The 3rd Infantry Division has trained hard and is ready," he said. "We will work with our Iraqi partners as they continue to increase their capability to protect the Iraqi people from any foe.
"We will help the people of Iraq maintain their right to freedom and the pursuit of a prosperous future for all Iraqi citizens," Webster said. "Our soldiers know this is right and just."
(Army Spc. Emily J. Wilsoncroft is assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division.)