FORT HOOD, Texas - Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division unfurled their colors and bade farewell to their commanding general during a relinquishment of command ceremony at the division's parade field here Feb. 1.

After a little more than two years of commanding the First Team, a heavy-armored unit, Maj. Gen. (P) Joseph F. Fil, Jr. is scheduled to head to Korea to command the 8th U.S. Army.

"It's very exciting. I'm deeply honored to be able to have that job. I'm hugely honored to be able to command again," said Fil of Portola Valley, Calif. "I'm the happiest Soldier in the world.

"(But) it's going to be very different."

The guest speaker Gen. Charles C. Campbell of Shreveport, La., commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command, said that the First Team is a unit with a marvelous reputation and under Fil's leadership the unit's reputation has been "further enhanced."

Most of Fil's time with the Cav was spent commanding Multi-National Division - Baghdad, leading the largest combat division in history at about 44,000 Soldiers strong.

Fil said that one of his greatest accomplishments as commander was the overall decrease in violence in Iraq since the unit took control of MND-B in November of 2006.

"We witnessed a dramatic drop in violence and the economy flourished as the Iraqi Security forces once again earned the trust and respect of its citizens," said Fil.

According to MND-B operations reports, since the transfer of authority from the 4th Infantry Division to the First Team in Nov. '06, the overall number of attacks decreased 70 percent.

During his time leading the troops on the ground in the Iraqi capital, also mentioned in the reports, bomb attacks decreased 73 percent as the number of found explosive devices, explosives found before they could detonate and cause causalities, increased.

In addition, with an influx of troops on the ground patrolling the streets during Fil's reign, civilian causalities also decreased 88 percent.

The heavily-manned division, which included 9 out of 10 active Army units, successfully assisted the Iraqi government to begin reconciliation with former enemies and dissenters, expanded the Iraqi Police forces and assisted Iraqi Security Forces in developing some units capable of operating independently without assistance from coalition forces.

The husband and father of two said that there is no longer a street or home in Baghdad were terrorists can roam freely. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda are running scared, he proclaimed in front of an audience of several hundred.

Getting rid of the bad guys was the first step the commander and his units took in the Iraqi capital.

During the 15-month deployment, Fil and his troops also helped expand essential services throughout the city with projects from repairing water treatment plants and rebuilding market areas in the war-torn city.

During the ceremony, the colors of each brigade and subordinate battalions uncased their colors in a time-honored tradition symbolizing the return of the entire division to central Texas.

Although he is glad to say his troops are finally home from war, the San Jose State University distinguished military graduate said that today having to leave this unit he loves is hard.

"It's a day we should be celebrating. I love this division and I love you all and I hate to leave it." said the outgoing commander. "I see and feel the love and support of so many who have been a part of what has been for me a privilege of a lifetime, the opportunity to lead the great men and woman of the 1st Cavalry Division."

As Fil prepares for duty in Korea, Brig. Gen. (P) Vincent K. Brooks of Alexandria, Va., the division's commanding general of support, was announced the interim commander of the First Team.

Brooks, a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, comes from within the Cav's command team after working side-by-side with Fil as the division's deputy commanding general of support since late June 2006.

But before Fil could leave the division, he lead the cavalry charge, an explosive Cav-specific display of horses and gun blasts.

"(The horses) get all wound-up and explode," Fil said.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16