CONTINGENCY OPERATING LOCATION MCHENRY, Iraq – U.S. soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment officially transferred responsibility of Contingency Operating Location McHenry to the Iraqi government during a ceremony in Kirkuk province, Iraq, May 15.
The return of Contingency Operating Location McHenry, or Mo’Oscar Bagarrah as its known to the Iraqi people, represents a big step toward the completion of U.S. forces’ mission in Kirkuk province, said Lt. Col. Andrew Ulrich, commander of 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, part of 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, 1st Infantry Division.
“The transition of Mo’Oscar Bagarrah is one of the first and most important transitions in Kirkuk,” said Ulrich. “Although we are leaving our footprint here, we will continue to advise, train and assist. I have full confidence that the Army and the partnered security forces gathered here today are ready for this transition.”
Ulrich officially transferred the base and its remaining facilities to Staff Brig. Gen. Mohsin, commander of 46th Brigade, 12th Iraqi Army Division, who represented the government of Iraq during the ceremony.
While stationed at Contingency Operating Location McHenry, Soldiers of 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, “Golden Dragons,” the last U.S. unit to occupy the base, worked diligently with their Iraqi counterparts to ensure the safety of the people of Iraq, said Ulrich.
“We built a lasting and meaningful personal relationship that assured me that we could call on the Iraqi security forces at any time and they would respond without hesitation,” Ulrich said. “Hopefully, we instilled the same trust in our partners and they now know they have a lasting friend in the American soldier and the American people.”
Until its transfer, Contingency Operating Location McHenry served as one of the oldest U.S. operating locations in Iraq, established during the first year of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
By spring 2006, Forward Operating Base McHenry had grown to a 500-soldier base with attached services and contractors.
In 2010, the Golden Dragons brought the newly designated Contingency Operating Location McHenry into Operation New Dawn as U.S. forces mission shifted from combat operations to an advise, train and assist role with Iraqi security forces counterparts.
Along with Iraqi army and Iraqi police units, 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, soldiers have seen a drastic decline in violence and increase in public safety, medical health and economic growth, said Ulrich.
“Eleven months ago our battalion moved into Mo’Oscar Bagarrah with the mission to advise, train and assist the Iraqi security forces in providing security for their people,” said Ulrich. “We were not surprised to find that they needed very little assistance and were very competent.”
Col. Michael Pappal, commander of 1st Advise and Assist Task Force, said the transfer of Contingency Operating Location McHenry represents the Iraqi Security Forces’ ability to continue taking full responsibility for the safety and protection of its people.
“The closure of this camp does not signify that we will be pulling away from our advise, train and assist mission with the Iraqi Police the Iraqi Army and the Regional Guard Brigade,” said Pappal. “Those relationships with our partners in arms will continue and remain strong into the future.”
Ulrich thanked his Iraqi counterparts for hard work, sacrifices and their dedication to Iraq and its people while training and working with the Golden Dragons.
“It is with great pride that we end our time at Mo’Oscar Bagarrah on a high note, surrounded by all our security partners who have the peoples’ best interest in mind,” said Ulrich during the ceremony. “Though you, the Iraqi security forces, have suffered losses at the hands of the insurgents, your mens’ bravery and sacrifice will not be forgotten.”