WASHINGTON, Oct. 2, 2006 – Iraq's army took a leap toward greater independent responsibility yesterday when the 1st Iraqi Army Division assumed operational control of another brigade. Marines and soldiers of Regimental Combat Team 5, based in Fallujah, turned over operational control of Iraqi soldiers assigned to 4th Brigade to the 1st Iraqi Army Division in a ceremony marking the transfer of authority. Iraqi soldiers serving in the brigade operate in joint and independent battle spaces ranging from this small city west of Abu Ghraib to regions north of Fallujah.
"On behalf of the 5,000 Marines, sailors and soldiers of Regimental Combat Team 5, I want to say how special and important today is," said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Larry D. Nicholson, commanding officer of RCT 5.
Nicholson said Iraqi soldiers, or jundi, proved their mettle in the past months by fighting insurgents alongside Marines, sharing in the risks and the victories over terrorism.
"Last week, jundi, Marines and police patrolled the streets of Gharmah," he explained. "That couldn't have been imagined two years ago. Marines and jundi have fought together, died together and bled together."
Iraqi Brig. Gen. Abdullah Abdul Satter Abdul Karem, commander of 4th Brigade, said the transfer from U.S. to Iraqi command was a historic occasion for the brigade, stating his Iraqi soldiers "honor the men of our country."
"This is an indicator of the level of training of the jundi of 4th Brigade," Abdullah said. "We are dedicated to building a free Iraq to defeat terrorism."
Iraqi soldiers from 4th Brigade fought battles in Fallujah, Gharmah and Karbala, he said. They also distributed medical assistance to local residences and assisted in rebuilding Fallujah following the battle in 2004. Additionally, they protected electoral candidates from assassination attempts prior to Iraq's first free elections last year.
"Although the relationship has changed," Nicholson said, "we'll continue to look forward to working together ... to defeat the enemy."
This was the second such ceremony in as many months. In September, Iraq's 1st Division assumed authority over 3rd Brigade, based in Habbaniyah.