SOUTHWEST ASIA, Aug. 21, 2016 —
Army Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general of XVIII Airborne Corps based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve from Army Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of III Armored Corps based at Fort Hood, Texas, during a transfer of authority ceremony held here today, according to CJTF-OIR officials.
Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel, U.S. Central Command’s commanding general, presided over the ceremony that was attended by hundreds of U.S. and coalition soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Votel expressed confidence in the team from Fort Bragg to continue pressuring the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
"We are very fortunate to be welcoming another great team in Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend and Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones," Votel said. "The XVIII Airborne Corps has very big shoes to fill, but I know they are up to the task and raring to go!”
Over the last several months, officials said, soldiers from the XVIII Airborne Corps conducted intense training to prepare for the mission.
Townsend highlighted the incredible work already accomplished in the region.
"Over the past year, CJTF-OIR, led by my good friend Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland and his III Armored Corps, and our coalition and regional partners, have done incredible work to degrade and dismantle ISIL's oppressive and brutal regime,” Townsend said.
“Their combined efforts on the ground and in the air have accelerated” the counter-ISIL campaign, Townsend said, pushing ISIL back across the battlefield and achieving remarkable momentum towards ISIL’s ultimate defeat.
MacFarland reflected on the turning point in the campaign against ISIL as Iraqi security forces drove them out of Ramadi, Iraq, in December 2015.
“Now the enemy is in retreat on all fronts and the Iraqi security forces have demonstrated that they can conduct complex and decisive operations," MacFarland said.
Some key accomplishments achieved during the III Armored Corps tour include:
-- Trained more than 13,500 members of the Iraqi security forces including over 4,000 Iraqi soldiers, 1,500 counter-terrorism service soldiers, 6,000 Peshmerga, almost 1,000 federal police and 300 border guards.
-- Increased emphasis on police training and recruiting tribal forces, adding 5,000 trained local police and over 20,000 tribal fighters enrolled.
-- Conducted about 50,000 counter-ISIL sorties in the past year, in which more than 30,000 munitions were dropped on the enemy with approximately two-thirds of those in Iraq and about one-third in Syria.
-- These strikes have enabled the liberation of more than 25,000 total square kilometers from ISIL. That's nearly half of the territory the enemy once controlled in Iraq and 20 percent of the territory they once controlled in Syria.
-- Conducted more than 200 strikes against oil and natural gas activities of the enemy, which reduced their oil revenue stream by approximately 50 percent.
-- Vigorously attacked enemy leadership, command-and-control and weapons manufacturing capability, to include more than 25 bulk cash storage sites, resulting in at least half-a-billion dollars destroyed.
Townsend shared his vision for the CJTF-OIR mission ahead.
“Let me say for all to hear -- friend and foe alike -- we will continue the attack against ISIL, and we will defeat them in Iraq and Syria on our watch," Townsend said.
The XVIII Airborne Corps most recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan in December 2014, where in Afghanistan it led the NATO operational headquarters in Kabul, the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.