War on Terrorism

Thursday, July 09, 2009

On the Ground: Detainee Transfer, Renaming Ceremonies Mark Progress

American Forces Press Service

July 9, 2009 - A detainee transfer and two base renaming ceremonies recently signified the changing role of U.S. forces in Iraq. Iraqi officials traveled to the Remembrance II theater internment facility on Camp Cropper in Baghdad on July 6 to pick up detainees transferring Iraqi government custody.

The trip marked the first time the Iraqi government executed an on-site detainee transfer without U.S. assistance. Assisted on-site transfers began in May.

"The transfers have been going very well," said Army Lt. Col. John Jacobsen, chief of the release and reporting center for Task Force 134. "We were able to transfer 62 detainees into [Iraqi government] custody."

Handling the transfers at Camp Cropper ensures compliance with the U.S.-Iraq security agreement.

"The Iraqis are more than capable of handling these detainee transfers, and we're happy to honor the security agreement," Jacobsen said. "We have a great partnership between our two governments, and it has allowed us to transfer detainees safely and efficiently."

Since Jan. 1, U.S. forces have released 3,884 detainees and transferred 835 detainees to the Iraqi government, officials said.

Elsewhere, soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, honored Army Staff Sgt. Todd Olson one last time before changing the name of Patrol Base Olson to Fond'k Albo Hera.

The patrol base in Samarra was named in honor of Olson, who died of wounds suffered during an attack in Samarra in December 2006.

"We have won this war because of men like Staff Sgt. Todd Olson and the efforts and sacrifices of all of our Iraqi brethren in attendance today," said Army Lt. Col. Samuel Whitehurst, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

"Today we are witnessing a transition that does not divide us, but further unifies us in our combined vision to protect and serve the Iraqi people and specifically the people of Samarra," he said. "This ceremony is recognition of a new mission for the battalion. The battalion is now focused on reconstruction and support to local government, not combat operations in the city."

The U.S.-Iraq security agreement calls for the withdrawal of all U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

The patrol base previously was a hotel. The new name of the patrol base translates from Arabic to "Lake Hotel."

"This facility represents the tourist potential for the city of Samarra," said Army Maj. Kareem Montague, the battalion's executive officer. "Our desire is to return this asset back to the city. To do this, we first must reduce our presence here and turn it back over to the government of Iraq."

In another renaming ceremony, U.S. and Iraqi forces gathered June 29 to commemorate the return of Forward Operating Base Bernstein to its original name, Matar al-Saddiq.

The renaming ceremony began with a memorial to Army 1st Lt. David Bernstein and Army Pfc. John Hart. The soldiers were killed in an insurgent attack Oct. 18, 2003, in nearby Taza. Bernstein was posthumously awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action.

"First Lt. Bernstein selflessly worked to save another wounded soldier instead of seeking care for himself," said Army Lt. Col. Chris Stenman, commander of the 25th Infantry Division's Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team. "In remembrance of his heroic deed, we honored his memory by referring to this place in his name."

In accordance with the security agreement, Stenman's troops will remain at Matar al-Saddiq and will continue working with Iraqi security forces at the request of the local Iraqi government.

"This morning, we proudly begin using the original name Matar al-Saddiq to refer to a location where Iraqi and coalition forces stand together in partnership," Stenman said. "I'm proud to serve alongside these soldiers -- Iraqi and American -- in support of the example of Iraq presented by the great people of Tuz and Salahuddin [province]."

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq and Multinational Corps Iraq news releases.)

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