By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 19, 2007 - There must be a "full and complete" partnership between coalition and Iraqi security forces for success in the country, the coalition's day-to-day commander of ground operations in Iraq said here today. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, spoke as the 1st Cavalry Division – commanded by Army Maj. Gen. Joseph F. Fil – transferred authority for Multinational Division Baghdad to the 4th Infantry Division – under Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Hammond – during a ceremony here.
Odierno said that when the 1st Cavalry took command of the Multinational Division Baghdad in November 2006, they and their Iraqi partners "walked into an area that was once shrouded in the dark shadow of al Qaeda and other extremist groups as well as considerable sectarian violence. They leave in their wake a city and its residents touched by a shining ray of hope."
Multinational Division Baghdad has been successful because of its partnerships with Iraqi security leaders and forces, the general said.
"Because of their shared concern, genuine care and daily engagement, they earned the trust and confidence of Baghdad's people," Odierno said. "In turn, it sparked a grassroots movement among the millions of residents and empowered them to feel in control of their own destiny."
The division and Iraqi partners cleared neighborhoods and then built joint security stations and combat outposts to ensure the enemy could not creep back in, the general said. "They patrolled Baghdad's most dangerous mulhallas by foot, enforcing the law and ridding the streets of criminals," he said.
The two forces worked together, lived together and sometimes died together, the general said. "Their daily presence in dangerous and extreme conditions provided Baghdad's citizens with the opportunity to reject the malicious influence of terrorists and extremists."
While Iraq has come a long way, much remains, the general said. Reconciliation is happening at the local level, but it must spread nationally, he said. Concerned local citizen groups are making a difference in local security, but the Iraqi government must transition these groups to the Iraqi security forces, he added.
The national government must make economic progress not only to improve the lives of its people, but also to cement security progress in place, Odierno said.
Iraqi leaders must make the tough choices to shape the future of the country, the general said. "The Iraqi people are counting on their leaders to improve their capacity and effectiveness," he explained. "The Iraqi people are counting on their leaders in this crucial time for resolute support, lucid direction and impassioned inspiration."
Odierno thanked all the troopers of the Multinational Division Baghdad for their 15 months of service on this deployment. "The First Team rose up to every challenge, never wavering and in total commitment to protecting Baghdad's population," he said.
He said the 4th Infantry Division – the division Odierno commanded during the initial push into Iraq – is up to the challenge that security in Baghdad represents. "There is no doubt that you will continue to build the partnership with the Baghdad Operational Command and will bring sustainable security to the Iraqi people," he said.
Finally, Odierno asked all present to remember the men and women of the U.S. and Iraqi forces who have lost their lives in defense of freedom. "It is up to all of us to ensure their sacrifices are not in vain," he said.