By Army Sgt. Mark Miranda
Special to American Forces Press Service
June 9, 2009 - Military operations in Iraq formally ended for Romanian forces June 4, as one of America's coalition allies prepared to ship out some of its remaining troops with an end-of-mission ceremony held by Romania's 26th Infantry "Red Scorpions" Battalion. The Romanian flag was lowered over the 26th's compound here, affectionately known as "Camp Dracula," in a ceremony following a memorial for the Romanian military personnel who died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The ceremony was held just an hour before the U.S. Army 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team conducted a relief-in-place, transfer-of-authority ceremony with the outgoing 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Cavalry Division.
Romanian President Traian Basescu, who is the supreme commander of Romanian armed forces during wartime, was on hand.
Romanian Lt. Col. Gabriel Toma, commander of the 26th Infantry Battalion, received the U.S. Bronze Star Medal from Army Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., commander of Multinational Corps Iraq.
"It's hard to say farewell to a trusted partner," Jacoby said. "Few have been as committed to freedom of the Iraqi people as the Romanians, and I extend my thanks, as it's been an honor to serve with them here in Iraq."
Jacoby praised the Romanians as a dedicated and capable force, and expressed condolences for their lost soldiers.
Since August 2003, Romania has deployed more than 5,200 troops to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Assigned to two different multinational divisions, Romanian forces have provided intelligence support to Multinational Division South by conducting reconnaissance and surveillance missions and operating unmanned aerial vehicle platforms. Romanian forces also provided base security, supply-route security and quick-reaction forces in Basra, and conducted training and monitoring of Iraqi army units, culminating with the May 23 graduation of Iraqi commandos on Camp Ur.
(Army Sgt. Mark Miranda serves with the 1st Armored Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.)