Beginning of end: Joint security stations change hands in Iraq
May 27, 2010
CONTINGENCY OPERATING SITE MAREZ, Iraq (May 27, 2010) -- Joint Security Stations Ashura and Tal Abtha, located in northern Iraq, were signed over to the Iraqi military and local government May 15. Within an hour of the short handover ceremony, U.S. forces had successfully withdrawn from the bases.
"This is a special day for the Iraqi Security Forces," said Capt. Russell Thomas, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, and former commander of JSS Ashura. "To be able to take control of this JSS and provide security over the area of Ashura is directly contributed to the hard work of the Iraqi security forces."
In May 2008, four Iraqi police were killed outside the gate of JSS Ashura. Since then Iraqi and U.S. forces from the JSS have secured the peace of the region. Schools and other local projects to restore the area have continued to flourish, Thomas said.
"There are certain days in people's lives that they will always remember," said Lt. Col. Ross Coffman, commander of 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, during the official signing of both JSS' to Iraqi Security Forces. "Those here will be able to say, I was there on that historic day when Iraqi forces took full control over JSS Ashura and Tal Abtha."
Even though this is Coffman's fourth deployment to Iraq, which he now considers a second home, he said his current deployment is the one that will have the lasting memory of what U.S. forces working jointly with ISF have been able to accomplish for the country.
"Carry the message that we are true to our word," said Coffman, in reference to the U.S. promise to withdraw from Iraq, which he said is a direct reflection of the success of ISF, and the relationship between both countries' military forces. "You are and always will be our brothers."
Sameer-Al Haddad, mayor of Tal Abtha, agrees that this success is directly contributed to the joint efforts of the U.S. and ISF.
"Some might not realize the importance of today now; however, one day when people look back, they will see this day as a truly historic day and will see all that had been accomplished because of the sacrifice and blood of the (U.S.) and ISF," said Haddad. "I hope one day in the future the Soldiers of the (U.S.), especially 1/64 Armor, will be able to return to Iraq and see for themselves what their sacrifices have helped the country of Iraq become."