Renaming Ceremony Restores Iraqi Tradition, Honors Fallen
July 3, 2009
MATAR AL-SADDIQ, TUZ, Iraq - Lt. Col. Chris Stenman, commander of the Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, partnered with Brig. Gen. Hewa Ahmed Star, commander of the Iraqi Army's 16th Brigade came together amid members of the Government of Iraq and Tuz Security Forces June 29 to restore Forward Operating Base Bernstein back to its original name - Matar al-Saddiq.
As Iraqi sovereignty returns, Coalition forces are stepping out of the spotlight to allow room for Iraqi Security Forces to take over security operations; under the new Security Agreement, CF will only work in advisory, training and coordination roles within Iraq's cities. CF is now focused on stability operations, and renaming FOB Bernstein was just a small part of the comprehensive plan to return full control to the Iraqi people.
The renaming ceremony began with a memorial to 1st Lt. David Bernstein and Pfc. John Hart, who lost their lives during an insurgent attack Oct. 18, 2003, in nearby Taza. Bernstein was posthumously awarded the Army's Silver Star for gallantry in action; both Iraqi and Coalition forces bowed their heads in silence to honor the two fallen Soldiers.
"1st Lt. Bernstein selflessly worked to save another wounded Soldier instead of seeking care for himself," said Stenman. "In remembrance of his heroic deed, we honored his memory by referring to this place in his name."
Stenman also reinforced the Special Troops Battalion's new mission in the Tuz Qada; the main goal is the safety and security of the Iraqi people through the ISF.
As a condition of the new Security Agreement, all U.S. combat forces will withdraw from cities by June 30, in the STB's area of operations, this has already taken place. Stenman's troops will remain at Matar al-Saddiq under Hewa's invitation; they will continue working with ISF at the request of the local Iraqi government.
"The future here - the strength here - is built on the expanding leadership and direction of the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces... so as our mission changes, our commitment to our partners remains enduring," said Stenman.
Lt. Col. Khalid Haaji Mohammad of the IA's 16th Bde. also addressed guests to assure them that the future of Tuz lies in ISF's hands. He also described partnership operations that CF will continue with both the IA and IP in the near future.
The STB has been partnering with the Tuz City Council and other key leaders to improve the living conditions, governance and security of the entire Qada for several months.
"This morning, we proudly begin using the original name Matar al-Saddiq to refer to a location where Iraqi and Coalition Forces stand together in partnership. I'm proud to serve alongside these Soldiers - Iraqi and American - in support of the example of Iraq presented by the great people of Tuz and Salah ad-Din," said Stenman.