Command of Australian Defence Force (ADF) Joint Task Force 633 in the Middle East Area of Operations changed hands yesterday.
After completing a 12-month appointment as Commander of ADF personnel in the Middle East, Major General John Cantwell yesterday handed over responsibility to Major General Angus Campbell.
During a ceremony at the Al Minhad Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, also attended by Australian embassy officials and representatives of the UAE Federal Government, more than 500 ADF personnel watched the formal transition of Command.
Chief of the Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston congratulated Major General Cantwell on a very successful tour and thanked him for his leadership.
“Major General Cantwell has done a magnificent job as Commander of Joint Task Force 633. It has been a very demanding tour and his dedication and care for all those under his command has been exceptional,” Air Chief Marshal Houston said.
“I thank Major General Cantwell for all that has been accomplished over the past year and I wish Major General Campbell well as he takes on this role – one of the ADF’s most challenging.”
Major General Cantwell said that during his appointment he had observed progress in Uruzgan Province, where the majority of ADF personnel are deployed.
“When our Dutch partners departed, Australia assumed full mentoring responsibilities for the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army as well as lead responsibility for the Provincial Reconstruction Team based in Uruzgan Province,” Major General Cantwell said.
“We now have forces operating across Uruzgan Province who have begun in earnest, the training and development task that will result in responsibility for security in Uruzgan Province transitioning to the Afghan National Security Forces in two or so years. It is very satisfying to see that the Afghan National Security Forces continue to grow in capability and build in strength as we move through this transition period.”
Major General Cantwell said he would retain lasting memories of the servicemen and women who he had met, the efforts that they were making, the lives that had been lost and the wounds that many have suffered.
“I have felt deep grief with every one of the 10 deaths and spent time at the bedside of many of the 64 wounded during my time as Commander. I will never forget the sacrifice and courage of our fallen, nor the fortitude of their families and those of the wounded,” Major General Cantwell said.
“I have had the opportunity to witness first hand the dedication, compassion and team spirit of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen across the Middle East Area of Operations and I am intensely proud of each and every one of them.”
Major General Cantwell also praised the work of the men and women of the Royal Australian Navy contributing to US-led Coalition efforts to promote maritime security in the Middle East Area of Operations.
“Their efforts have contributed significantly to lowering the risk of piracy on key global trade routes and disrupting terrorist maritime routes,” he said.
Major General Cantwell said it was a privilege to serve as Commander and he thanked all those personnel who had deployed to the Middle East during his time at the helm.
Major General Campbell thanked the outgoing Commander for his passion for his people and his hard work.
“The way forward for Australia’s military and civilian efforts in Uruzgan Province is well defined. Our mentoring and training programmes with the Afghan National Security Forces are progressing well.
The civilian programmes under the Provincial Reconstruction Team are resolving a number of local problems while the Afghan Government is also extending its influence thanks to the growing security presence across the province,” Major General Campbell said.
“There is purpose to our mission here and progress is being achieved.
“I suspect that we, as a coalition, will be tested by the Taliban, which will want to win back the support it has lost, the ground that has been conceded and the legitimacy forgone through its campaign of terror and intimidation. We are well placed to provide protection for the Afghan people but there is no doubt that the insurgents will re-engage in violence and bloodshed as they continue to lose more of their influence across Afghanistan.”
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