News: US continues to hand over camps to Iraq
By Sgt. 1st Class Samantha M. Stryker, 17TH Fires Brigade PAO
BASRA PROVINCE, Iraq — U.S. military leaders returned four camps to the government of Iraq in the country's southern region, Jan. 30.
In a second round of camp closures in Basra province in the last month, U.S. forces and their Iraqi army counterparts held symbolic ceremonies signifying progress of the Iraqi security forces' ability to provide security to the region and the draw-down of U.S. combat troops in accordance with the historic Security Agreement.
All four of the ceremonies were attended by Col. Steven L. Bullimore, 17th Fires Brigade commander, Sameer Alhaddad, a representative of the chief of staff of the prime minister, Maj. Gen. Abdul Aziz Noor Swady al Dalmy, 14th Iraqi Army Division commander.
The Iraqi government official expressed the significance of the events and what it means to the Iraqi people, their government and their partners, the U.S.
"These events show that democracy is being improved, the security issue is being improved, and government is moving forward," Alhaddad said. "It shows that the army is stronger and is capable of handling our security, capable to move forward against terrorism."
The U.S. military leader talked about the impact the ceremonies will have to the partnership.
"These ceremonies are the official start of a significant change in day-to-day operations and a public demonstration of our transition with the Iraqi military," Bullimore said. "This transition to tenancy on these four bases sets the conditions for physical moves after the elections."
The ceremonies were held at military sites known as Naval Base, Al Hindiyah, camp Sa'ad and camp Wessam where American Military Transition Teams are housed as they train, advise and conduct joint-military operations with ISF. Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 77th Armored Regiment, 4th Brigade, 1st Armored Division who are attached to 1st Battalion (Air Assault), 377th Field Artillery, 17th Fires Bde., provide security, enablers and support services such as food, vehicles and maintenance for both the MTT and their Iraqi partners.
The ceremonies began mid-morning at the Naval Base, headquarters of the 50th Brigade, 14th IA Div., responsible for the security in the eastern part of Basra city.
Afterwards leaders walked to Al Hindiyah, where the 53rd Brigade headquarters is located about three city blocks from Naval Base. Sameer and the military leaders confidently walked along the city streets as ISF provided security.
"Basra is proof that the Iraqi army is strong enough to take over security and we will show the people that the government can protect them," Alhaddad said. "Today we walked down the street with a few American military and we proved we could provide for their security. The American Army can walk down the street ... and walk with the Iraqi people," he added.
The troops at the final two locations, camp Sa'ad, the 52nd Brigade headquarters and camp Wessam, the home of the 14th IA Div., headquarters held ceremonies in the same fashion as the others. Each ceremony involved a platoon of USF and ISF soldiers positioned next to each other, representing the partnership the two militaries have shared for years.
Before the ceremonies the government official greeted soldiers. He talked about the mood of the event.
"You can see the happiness in the eyes of the American Army; they did a great job in Iraq helping the people stand up. At the same time we see the happiness in the Iraqi army eyes as they receives the property and continues to prove they are capable to secure the area," Alhaddad said.
Bullimore added that the relocation of USF would not deteriorate the working relationship of the armies.
"While our partnership will remain strong, it is not necessary that we literally live on site at all of these locations," Bullimore stated.
According to Maj. Kevin Jackson, 17th Fires Bde., operations officer, the Soldiers who lived and worked at three of the four camps will now leave from a U.S. base to meet up with their ISF partners to continue to train and advise.
Jackson stated that the small number of USF at camp Wessam will continue to live and work at the 14th IA Div., Headquarters for the duration of the brigade's time in country.
Earlier this year U.S. Division-South returned Camps Hutch and Area 51, both located in the Shaibah Training Center. Until recently a platoon of Soldiers from 1st Battalion (Air Assault), 377th Field Artillery remained at Area 51 after their ceremony. Now only IA soldiers remain.
Basra province is 11,850 square miles and shares a border with Kuwait to the south and Iran to the east. The province is roughly the size of the Washington state counties of Whatcom, Skagit, Snohomish, King, Pierce and Lewis combined; or the size of the state of Arizona.