By Sgt. Laura M. Bigenho, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Feb. 15, 2008 - Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III assumed command of Multinational Corps Iraq at Camp Victory's Al Faw Palace here yesterday. He succeeds Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who has been nominated for his fourth star and, if confirmed, will become Army vice chief of staff later this year.
Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Multinational Force Iraq commander, spoke highly of Odierno's accomplishments and leadership as commander of 3rd Corps and Multinational Corps Iraq. Petraeus said Iraq was a much different place when Odierno first took command 14 months ago.
"The situation was very difficult," Petraeus said. "The bloodshed had reached horrific levels. The very fabric of Iraqi society had been torn."
Petraeus said Odierno and his team had a lot of planning and hard work on their hands, but they stepped up and made the tough decisions the country needed.
"He forthrightly requested additional forces, and he and his staff began developing an operational concept for their employment," Petraeus said. "His recommendations for what came to be known as the surge forces have since been proven correct. They reflected a mastery of the operational level of war, and they explicitly laid out the concepts that have guided our forces over the past year."
Odierno said he was humbled by Petraeus' remarks and for having served among the ranks of others.
"You restored optimism to a country once enslaved by the influence of terrorists and allowed a nation to take control of its own destiny," Odierno said. "I am humbled to serve in your ranks, and I salute each and every one of you. Thank you for being at my side and for being the soldiers that you are."
Austin said he looks forward to working alongside the Iraqi security forces, who share ideals similar to those of coaltion forces.
"Iraqis, like the coalition soldiers by their sides, believe that there are ideals and responsibilities that transcend the individual, and they are denying the terrorists the freedom to launch their attacks from their neighborhoods," Austin said. "Every day, Iraqis are getting involved with the government."
Austin served with 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq in 2003 as assistant division commander for maneuver. Other assignments include command of Combined Joint Task Force 180 during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and, most recently, chief of staff for U.S. Central Command. He took command of 18th Airborne Corps, which assumed responsibility for Multinational Corps Iraq from 3rd Corps in yesterday's ceremony, in December 2006.
Austin said he plans to help Iraqis promote progress.
"We will help the Iraqi government integrate local volunteers into the Iraqi security force and other employment opportunities that will promote progress for this great country," he said.
The Iraqis' evident choice of peace over sectarian violence will be key in continuing to make progress, Austin said.
"It is clear that the Iraqi people have a new confidence in tomorrow and in their future," he said. "With will, determination and focus, together we can achieve lasting security and give all Iraqis a future of hope."
(Army Sgt. Laura M. Bigenho serves with Multinational Corps Iraq Public Affairs.)