American Forces Press Service
April 1, 2009 - Multinational Division Center absorbed Multinational Division Southeast into its operating area in a ceremony here yesterday, forming Multinational Division South. Army Maj. Gen. Michael L. Oates, who previously commanded Multinational Division Center, accepted responsibility for the new division from British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, who commanded Multinational Division Southeast.
British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon, Multinational Division Southeast commander, and Army Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of the newly formed Multinational Division South, shake hands during a transfer-of-responsibility ceremony March 31, 2009, in Basra, Iraq. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darryl L. Montgomery
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Oates and Multinational Division South now support Iraqi security forces operations over nine provinces in southern Iraq.
Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, and Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, joined Iraqi government officials and Iraqi security forces leaders to witness the transfer.
Austin congratulated the outgoing command for all its accomplishments in Basra.
"We thank you very much for your service to the coalition and the Iraqi people," he said. "You have been an essential part in Basra's hard-won and new-found freedom."
Austin encouraged the newly formed division to continue the high standards set by Multinational Division Southeast.
"[They] have made significant strides in providing security in central and southern Iraq by partnering with the Iraqi security forces over the past year," he said. "Now they will expand their great partnership with the Iraqi security forces throughout the entire south."
Oates expressed his appreciation for United Kingdom contributions here, calling the U.S. and British relationship outstanding.
"It's a bittersweet day for me to have them leave," he said. "I'm enormously proud of them, and I think the people of Great Britain should be very proud of their army."
Multinational Division South's objectives in Basra include helping with economic development and governance, increasing security for the Iraqi people and assisting with training and transitioning of the Iraqi security forces.
After six years of deployment in southeastern Iraq, about 4,000 British troops remain. They are scheduled to redeploy this summer.
(From a Multinational Division South news release.)