By Sgt. Ashley BellJuly 8, 2013
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan (July 8, 2013) -- After completing a successful 12-month tour in Southern Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams, the Third Infantry Division commanding general, officially handed over command of Regional Command (South) to Maj. Gen. Paul J. LaCamera, the Fourth Infantry Division commanding general, during a Transfer of Authority Ceremony July 8, 2013, at Kandahar Airfield.
Several of Afghanistan's top U.S. military and Afghan officials attended the ceremony, including Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, and United States Forces-Afghanistan commander; Lt. Gen. Mark A. Milley, commander of the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command; and Afghan Army Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, the 205th Corps commander.
The ceremony began with the arrival of the official party, followed by the playing of the NATO Hymn and The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and United States of America national anthems by the Third Infantry Division band.
Milley praised Abrams, Command Sgt. Maj. Edd Watson and their troops on an incredible job done in one of the most dangerous and volatile regions of Afghanistan. He said their dedication and determination have helped to make the future brighter for all Afghans.
"Not only have the Soldiers of RC(S) defended the Afghan people, they have also enabled the Afghan people to defend themselves through the Afghan National Security Forces," said Milley. "It is the growing confidence, competence and capabilities of the ANSF that will allow the people of Afghanistan to live their lives without fear; and all of you here today have helped to make that dream a reality."
Abrams gave his final remarks to RC(S) Soldiers, where he applauded ISAF and Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, forces for a job well done here in Afghanistan, especially those who gave their lives to this cause.
"It brings me great pride and honor to stand among this amassed group of incredibly brave leaders, who are fully invested in the security and governance of Afghanistan," said Abrams. "I am sincerely humbled by the sacrifice extended in both blood and treasure from all those represented here today as members of the coalition and the ANSF."
"We are wrapping up the 11th round of this 12-round fight and the ANSF of RC(S) have proven their ability to lead and conduct independent operations for this 12th and final round," said Abrams. "There is a Pashtun proverb that says if you have jumped across a stream once, the next jump becomes easier."
Abrams also talked about how bittersweet his departure from RC(S) has become. He said he had confidence that the Fourth Infantry Division organization is well prepared to take over operations.
"Paul LaCamera is a warrior, a proven leader and a friend of Afghanistan," said Abrams. "He and his team prepared well for the mission. We will never forget the heroes, ISAF and ANSF, who gave their lives in this noble endeavor, this righteous fight; and we pray for their families. I hold you all in the highest regards and will never forget the generosity and hospitality to us during our time here; Rock of the Marne"
The incoming commander, LaCamera, gave his remarks to coalition forces as commander of RC(S).
"It's humbling to be in front of this group of warriors and the proud people of Afghanistan," said LaCamera. "It is also good to be back in Afghanistan among Afghan and coalition friends. It is a relationship that that has help to shape and define me as a military leader and a citizen of my own country."
LaCamera talked about his outlook on Afghanistan's future and extended his gratitude to Abrams and his division and the ANSF forces.
"For every night there is a day that follows, the country now sees the light, this year is better than last year and better than the year before that. As General Hamid says,'" said LaCamera. "The terrorist are scrambling and the Afghan National Security Forces are truly an example of our division motto 'Steadfast and Loyal.'"
"We will continue to build on the relationship our former RC commanders have built," he said. "We will continue to provide support for training, development and operations."