Special to American Forces Press Service
Jan. 2, 2010 - A New Year's Day ceremony here marked another evolution of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as five major command groups merged into a single headquarters command, U.S. Forces Iraq. "This ceremony marks another significant transition here in Iraq," said Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command. "It represents another important milestone in the continued drawdown of American forces."
More than 300 U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers and civilians attended the new unit's official activation ceremony at Al Faw Palace. Army Gen. Ray Odierno, Multinational Force Iraq commander, said goodbye to his unit, while subordinate commanders, Army Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, Jr., commander of Multinational Corps Iraq, Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commmander of Multinational Security and Transition Command Iraq, and Army Maj. Gen. David Quantcock, Task Force 134 commander, rendered their final honors and cased their colors, signifying the commands' official inactivations.
Petraeus expressed his gratitude to the units' troops for the hard work they performed.
"You, our troopers, have been the single element in all that we have done in Iraq with our Iraqi brothers," General David H. Petraeus said. "You have been the ones who have translated concepts and ideas from leaders like General Odierno and me into reality on the ground, under body armor and rucksack, in tough conditions, against an often barbaric enemy."
Petraeus noted the progress that has taken place in Iraq.
"We've made tremendous strides together since the dark days of 2006, 2007," Petraeus said. "The number of attacks per day, including Iraqi data, has been reduced from well over 200 per day in 2007, to fewer than 15 per day in recent months."
Petraeus also thanked the Iraqi leaders present for their "tremendous courage and determination in the face of innumerable challenges, continuous threats and periodic tragic losses." He also commended members of the Iraqi Army. "To my Iraqi brothers in uniform, today's ceremony would not have been possible without your extraordinary courage, devotion to duty and sheer hard work."
Odierno will command the new unit. He said that though some units were going away, the Iraqis could continue to expect the same high level of cooperation and support from U.S. forces.
"Though we are activating a new headquarters today, the support we give our Iraqi partners will be no different than they received under MNF-I," Odierno said.
Multinational Forces Iraq was established May 15, 2004, taking over command for Combined Joint Task Force 7 to handle all strategic-level operations for coalition forces contributing to OIF.
"Troops from 30 different countries served in the Multi-National Force Iraq," U.S. Air Force Maj. Dennis Kruse, master of ceremonies, said at the ceremony.
Multinational Corps Iraq was also activated May 15, 2004 as the operational-level headquarters overseeing multi-national divisions and forces in Iraq, which included Multiational Divisions North, South, and Baghdad, as well as Multinational Force West, 13th Expeditionary Support Command and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force. In addition, it also oversaw 13 separate task forces, brigades and battalion-sized organizations.
To organize, train and equip Iraq's military and police forces, Multinational Security and Transition Command Iraq was established on June 28, 2004. Working closely with the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior, the unit assisted in forming more than 250 Army and police battalions throughout the country.
Task Force 134 was established on April 15, 2004, to oversee all aspects of the conduct of detainee operations within theater and to serve as the executive agent for execution of theater policy as well as military doctrine. Their mission was care and custody with dignity and respect.
"Over its history (TF 134) has helped cultivate a foundation of security and stability in this important region of the world," Kruse said.
The respective commanders and command sergeant majors from each deactivating unit stood on either side of the colors. On the order from Multinational Forces Iraq Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson, all rendered last honors to their colors.
"Order arms," Wilson's voice rang through the rotunda. The colors were then cased and retired. The U.S. Army 1st Corps, U.S. Forces Iraq, and NATO Training Mission Iraq guidons were then unfurled and posted.
(This article is based on a U.S. Forces Iraq news release.)