News: Dragon brigade turns over two bases in Salah ad-Din province
SALAH AD DIN PROVINCE, Iraq — Two bases were handed back to the Government of Iraq, Feb. 1, in accordance with the U.S. - Iraq Security Forces Agreement to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq to 50,000 by August.
The historic Mahmoon Palace and the Sharqat Joint Coordination Center were both transitioned back to the GOI from the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division. Sameer Al-haddad, the Iraqi Receivership Secretariat, signed for both centers.
The Mahmoon Palace was built as a place to celebrate Saddam Hussein birthdays, and it still contains ornate chandeliers, columns, and decorative tiled floors and ceilings.
Previously the palace served as the Tikrit Joint Coordination Center where the Iraqi security forces, government officials, U.S. Army Soldiers and emergency response managers coordinated emergency response functions for Tikrit.
Despite the transition of the Mahmoon Palace, Lt. Col. Robert Cain, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery Regiment promised to continue partnerships with the Iraqi security forces and GoI.
"We continue to support the resolution by the Iraqi government to reduce the number of troops and the number of bases that we occupy in Iraq," Cain said.
"Even though we're reducing the number of bases throughout the country of Iraq we are continuing to support the Iraqi government and the Iraqi security forces throughout the entire province and we'll continue to support them up until the last day that we're here in Iraq," he continued.
For 'Dragon' brigade Soldiers who deployed with the unit to Baghdad during the "surge," working with ISF and seeing the transition of the palace was a sign of progress.
"When we came in during the surge everything was geared toward patrolling and pretty much IED negation. Now it's more of a professional climate, dealing hand in hand with the Iraqis themselves ... it's a night and day difference," said Sgt. 1st Class George Havel, an artilleryman with 2-32 FAR, who spent four months working with ISF at the JCC.
"It's very symbolic. This place is a piece of their history and they understand it. It's very well kept up for what it's gone through," said Havel.