Iraq — ‘Lion‑6’ Signs Off, Turns Iraq Command to Austin

CAMP VICTORY, Iraq, Sept. 1, 2010 — Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no put it very sim­ply today, as he fin­ished his address at the change of com­mand cer­e­mo­ny for U.S. Forces Iraq.

“Lion 6 – Out,” Odier­no said, mean­ing that the com­man­der had fin­ished using his call sign and was head­ing for his new assign­ment at U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand in Nor­folk, Va. The cer­e­mo­ny was held here at the al Faw Palace – an ornate edi­fice built near the Bagh­dad air­port by Sad­dam Hus­sein to com­mem­o­rate the vic­to­ry over Iran in 1988.

Odier­no hand­ed the reins of the com­mand to Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Biden, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Ambas­sador to Iraq James Jef­frey and Iraqi secu­ri­ty lead­ers attend­ed the cer­e­mo­ny. U.S. Marine Corps. Gen. James Mat­tis, U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand Chief, presided as Odier­no passed the com­mand flag to Austin.

The change in com­mand coin­cid­ed with a change in mis­sion for USFI. “The Unit­ed States has end­ed its com­bat mis­sion in Iraq,” Biden said before the cer­e­mo­ny. “Iraqi troops are tak­ing lead respon­si­bil­i­ty for their country’s secu­ri­ty.”

The Unit­ed States kept its promise to draw down troops and end Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom and put in place Oper­a­tion New Dawn, the vice pres­i­dent said. It means that the 50,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq are involved sole­ly in train­ing and men­tor­ing Iraqi units. There is a resid­ual coun­terin­sur­gency mis­sion, but even that is Iraqi-led.

The mis­sion here, though, remains impor­tant to the Unit­ed States and to the region, Gates said.

Gates took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to focus on the troops still in Iraq that will serve in an advise and assist role for Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces. “Even as the weight of our mil­i­tary efforts and pub­lic atten­tion has shift­ed to Afghanistan, you should know your work here going for­ward is crit­i­cal to the future of this part of the world, and to the nation­al secu­ri­ty of our coun­try,” the sec­re­tary said. “You have my grat­i­tude and respect for your ser­vice and sac­ri­fice, and for the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice of your fam­i­lies.”

Gates praised Odier­no for his lead­er­ship in Iraq. Dur­ing Odierno’s tenure, the com­mand shift­ed from Multi­na­tion­al Forces Iraq to U.S. Forces Iraq. Odier­no shift­ed Amer­i­can forces out of the cities and sculpt­ed the advise and assist mis­sion that all six U.S. brigades in coun­try now have. And he did all this while rede­ploy­ing 74,000 ser­vice­mem­bers back to the Unit­ed States.

Odier­no received his new job after only a sev­en-month break after serv­ing as the corps com­man­der in Bagh­dad. “He leaves as one of the few U.S. Army gen­er­als in his­to­ry to com­mand a divi­sion, corps and entire the­ater in the same con­flict,” Gates said. “After com­mand­ing the 4th Infantry Divi­sion in the area around Sad­dam Hussein’s home­town dur­ing the first year of the cam­paign, Gen­er­al Odier­no would lat­er take charge of the Multi­na­tion­al Corps dur­ing the dark­est days of the war.”

The gen­er­al craft­ed the tac­tics Amer­i­can forces and their allies used to fight a coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign. “As any stu­dent of mil­i­tary his­to­ry knows, any strat­e­gy is only as effec­tive as its exe­cu­tion, and with­out Ray’s abil­i­ty to turn plans into results on the ground, we would be fac­ing a far grim­mer sit­u­a­tion out­side these walls today,” Gates said. Odier­no returned to com­mand all forces in Iraq. His mis­sion was to build on the hard-fought gains of the surge, keep the prover­bial boot on the neck of al-Qai­da in Iraq and expand the capac­i­ty and capa­bil­i­ties of Iraq’s army and police.

“The ded­i­ca­tion of Gen­er­al Odier­no, the sac­ri­fices of the troops under his com­mand, and the efforts of our inter­a­gency and Iraqi part­ners made it pos­si­ble to be where we are today – with a dra­mat­i­cal­ly reduced troop pres­ence and a new mis­sion,” the sec­re­tary said.

Gates said the com­mand is for­tu­nate to get Austin as the new com­man­der. The gen­er­al most recent­ly served as the direc­tor of the Joint Staff. Before that he was the corps com­man­der in Iraq and served with the 3rd Infantry Divi­sion in the ini­tial inva­sion of Iraq in 2003.

“Lloyd Austin – like Ray Odier­no – has always led by exam­ple, ask­ing noth­ing of his troops that he would not do him­self,” Gates said. “He has the unique dis­tinc­tion of being award­ed the Sil­ver Star for val­our as a gen­er­al offi­cer, lead­ing from the front dur­ing the 3rd Infantry Division’s march to Bagh­dad more than sev­en years ago.

“I know he will use his extra­or­di­nary tal­ents and expe­ri­ence to build on the suc­cess that has been achieved in Iraq, suc­cess bought with the blood and sweat of all who have served here,” the sec­re­tary con­tin­ued.

Odier­no reflect­ed on Iraqi and Amer­i­can accom­plish­ments in the coun­try. “This peri­od in Iraq’s his­to­ry will prob­a­bly be remem­bered for sac­ri­fice, resilien­cy and change,” he said. “But I will remem­ber it as a time when the Iraqi peo­ple stood up against tyran­ny, ter­ror­ism, extrem­ism and decid­ed to deter­mine their own des­tiny as a peo­ple and as a demo­c­ra­t­ic state.”

The Iraqis, Odier­no said, had the help of an incred­i­bly ded­i­cat­ed group of Amer­i­can mil­i­tary per­son­nel and civil­ians.

“I nev­er lost faith in the adapt­abil­i­ty, courage and men­tal tough­ness of our ser­vice­mem­bers and civil­ians to get the job done,” he said. “If there is one les­son I’ve tak­en from our involve­ment here it is the sheer mag­ni­tude of what we are capa­ble of when we trust­ed our­selves and focused on our com­mit­ment and worked side-by-side, arm-in-arm with our Iraqi part­ners.”

Odier­no urged Iraqi politi­cians to move quick­ly to form a rep­re­sen­ta­tive gov­ern­ment based on the results of the March 7 elec­tions.

“A peace­ful tran­si­tion of pow­er fol­low­ing the peace­ful and cred­i­ble elec­tions,” he said, “is the strongest pos­si­ble response to al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tions.”

The Iraqi peo­ple have sent a mes­sage to their lead­ers, Odier­no said. “I urge all the polit­i­cal blocs to respond by form­ing a gov­ern­ment that is rep­re­sen­ta­tive of (the peo­ples’) will,” the gen­er­al said. “It is time for Iraq to move for­ward.”

Austin pledged to con­tin­ue coop­er­a­tion with the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, even as the func­tions of his com­mand trans­fer to civil­ian con­trol. Oper­a­tion New Dawn is an endur­ing com­mit­ment to a new rela­tion­ship with the Iraqi peo­ple, he said.

“It will require a com­pre­hen­sive and coher­ent approach by all U.S. gov­ern­ment enti­ties, inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions and the Iraqi gov­ern­ment,” Austin said. “The result of that team­work will be a sta­ble, secure and self-reliant Iraq that ben­e­fits the entire region.”

The region will ben­e­fit from a sta­ble Iraq, Austin said, not­ing that Iraq can be a demo­c­ra­t­ic cor­ner­stone of progress in a trou­bled area. He thanked ser­vice­mem­bers, their civil­ian com­pa­tri­ots and the Iraqi gov­ern­ment for forg­ing new, peace­ful rela­tion­ships with its neigh­bors.

“Although chal­lenges remain, we will face these chal­lenges togeth­er,” Austin said. “Iraq still faces a hos­tile ene­my that is deter­mined to end her progress, and Iraq’s ene­mies will con­tin­ue to try to pur­sue their objec­tives.

“But make no mis­take: our mil­i­tary forces here and those of the Iraqi nation remain com­mit­ted to insur­ing that our friends in Iraq will suc­ceed,” he con­tin­ued. “And we will demon­strate our com­mit­ment through a con­tin­ued part­ner­ship, and we will help the Iraqis devel­op their capa­bil­i­ty to pro­vide for their own nation­al defense by advis­ing and assist­ing, train­ing and equip­ping the secu­ri­ty forces.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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