War on Terrorism

Monday, January 25, 2010

Marines End Anbar Mission as Army Takes Lead

By Army Spc. Kayleigh Cannon
Special to American Forces Press Service

Jan. 25, 2010 - The 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force transferred authority of Iraq's largest province to the Army's 1st Armored Division in a Jan. 23 ceremony here that marked the end of the Marine Corps' mission in Iraq. Before the ceremony, 1st Armored Division's area of operations, as U.S. Division Center, encompassed Baghdad and its surrounded communities. Now, it extends the throughout Iraq's Anbar province, a vast landscape spanning more than 53,000 square miles in western Iraq.

"This is a pivotal moment in the history of Iraq," said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, commander of 2nd MEF (Forward), the 2nd Marine Division, and U.S. Force West.

Marines have been at the heart of almost every major Iraq campaign period since February 2004, from the early battles in Najaf and Fallujah, along the western Euphrates River Valley from Qaim to Rawah, and continuing with the pivotal Sunni "Awakening" that many historians and diplomatic experts credit as the turning of the tide against al-Qaida in Iraq.

"Since early 2004, the U.S. Marines serving in Al Anbar have consistently exemplified their motto, 'Semper Fi – Always Faithful,'" said Army Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., U.S. Forces Iraq deputy commanding general for operations and commander of the Army's 1st Corps. "They have been especially faithful to the people of Al Anbar, the focal point of their mission in Iraq. Anbaris are resilient people who have sacrificed dearly but now emerge as stronger people."

As the Marines say their goodbyes to the Anbar's residents and tribal leaders, Iraqi soldiers and police officers will begin working closely with 1st Armored Division soldiers under the continued leadership of the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade, who have been operating there in an "advise and assist" capacity for about six months. Division leaders said they are eager to build on 2nd MEF's reputation, and Tryon expressed confidence in their ability to do so.

"Today's ceremony is certainly an example of continued positive change as we transition and consolidate U.S. forces under the flag of USD-C," he said. "Over the last several years, we have seen a logical and a desired progression in Anbar, moving from combat operations to counterinsurgency operations, and now to stability operations."

Tryon praised the efforts of the Iraqis and tribal sheiks in Anbar for their courage in standing against tyranny and violence in their streets.

"These things have not been accomplished over the course of the past several years because of what U.S. forces have done alone," the general said. "Rather, these achievements are a result of what we have done together in partnership with one another and with the leadership of the Iraqi civil sector.

"We see over and again that we are at our best when we partner together to achieve our mutual objectives and goals working side by side, hand in hand," he continued, "learning from one another in accomplishing our mutual mission."

The casing of the 2nd MEF colors signified completion of the Marine Corps mission in Iraq. As the Marine color guard marched the colors off the stage, the Army color guard replaced them. Army Maj. Gen. Terry A. Wolff, 1st Armored Division and U.S. Division Center commanding general, said the Marines' accomplishments in the region will not be in vain.

"For many of us who have served with you on multiple tours across Iraq," he said, "we'll never forget your sacrifices and all that you have given on our behalf."

Woolf emphasized that his division will match Anbar's changing environment by assisting tribal sheiks and Iraqi security forces in ensuring all Iraqis in the region enjoy the security and peace they deserve.

"Today is one of those transition points in the evolution of military operations, as the 1st AD and USD-C takes over responsibility for partnering with Iraqi security forces and the provincial government of Al Anbar," he said. "As we move forward, we understand the importance of this year in Iraq, and the USD-C team has dedicated ourselves to that mission and the tasks ahead."

(Army Spc. Kayleigh Cannon serves in U.S. Division Center with the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Brigade.)

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