By Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Hoskins (101st Airborne)November 17, 2016
BAGHDAD -- The 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) transferred authority of the Combined Joint Forces Land Component Command -- Operation Inherent Resolve to the 1st Infantry Division during a ceremony in Baghdad Nov. 17, 2016.
Maj. Gen. Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 101st, passed the CJFLCC-OIR colors on to Maj. Gen. Joseph Martin, commander of the 1st ID, by way of Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commanding general of Combined Joint Task Force -- Operation Inherent Resolve.
The 1st Infantry Division, based out of Fort Riley, Kansas, is slated for a nine-month deployment to Iraq where it will continue the mission to enable Iraqi security forces to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL.
The 101st completed its nine-month deployment as the headquarters element for CJFLCC-OIR, which during their tenure enabled the maneuver and advance of ISF through ISIL-held territory, liberating city after city leading to the eventual Mosul offensive.
CJFLCC-OIR, a 19-nation Coalition, enabled ISF successes by training and equipping them at building partner capacity sites, advising and assisting them at the brigade and division level, and enabling ground maneuver through strikes.
Building Partner Capacity
The BPC mission entails a balance of equipping using the Iraq Train and Equip Funding and training the ISF how to maintain and use the equipment. This was accomplished at BPC sites.
More than 700 service members from CJFLCC-OIR operated the five BPC sites where ISF learned everything from basic battlefield medical care and rifle marksmanship to advanced marksmanship and improvised explosive device defeat techniques.
Another important component was training the leadership.
Volesky recalls two units tasked with similar missions -- one succeeded, the other languished. The difference was the caliber of leadership, he said.
"We put two brigades up to Makhmur, and they both got trained," said Volesky. "One brigade had great leadership. The first day of the attack, they were supposed to go three kilometers; they went nine and seized all these villages.
"The second did the same training, and it took them four months to seize their initial objective. The first repelled multiple Daesh counterattacks and continued to push the fight. The other unit, they withdrew off the objective twice. And it was flat out because of leadership.
"So what we learned was, we had to start training some of the leaders in this training sites that we have."
Over the course of nine months, more than 23,000 ISF were trained, generating a force capable of meeting and defeating ISIL on the battlefield.
Advise and Assist
With a capable and well-equipped force ready to go to battle, the ISF and Government of Iraq leaders are able to strategize and execute their plan to retake their country from ISIL. This is where CJFLCC-OIR comes in.
Under the advise and assist mission, CJFLCC-OIR senior leaders coached and mentored ISF leaders during the planning and execution of operations across Iraq, leading to the liberation of Hit, Fallujah, Ramadi, Qayyarah, and Sharqat, and the start of the Mosul offensive.
CJFLCC-OIR advised at four major operations centers, five strategic locations -- such as Baghdad and Erbil -- three federal police divisions, and much more.
By advising and assisting at the division, brigade and even battalion levels, CJFLCC-OIR saw tactical experience evolve.
Volesky likens the A&A mission like being a football coach. Coaches ensure their team receives the best training and equipment to enable them to win the game, but just as importantly they go provide guidance and mentorship, enabling the team to score. But there is one stark difference when the team takes the field. They don't use the coach's game plan, they use their own.
"We conducted the advise and assist mission to help them synchronize, coordinate, integrate for their operations, but make no mistake, they are executing their plan to take back their country," said Volesky. "I saw Iraq security forces' plan to liberate their country when I first arrived on ground here, and it has not changed in the past nine months."
Along with coaching and mentoring, the 101st-led coalition of 19 nations provided the ISF an advantage over their opponents -- intelligence and strikes.
Enabling ISF Maneuver
While ISF maneuvered toward Mosul, the CJFLCC-OIR fires officers and strike cell meticulously planned and coordinated strikes by, with and through the Government of Iraq. These strikes -- executed by various platforms -- enable ISF to more safely move while denying the enemy safe haven.
The 101st authorized more than 6,900 strikes under its watch, destroying ISIL headquarters, staging areas, hideouts, weapons caches and more -- all conducted with precision and intense scrutiny and coordination with the GoI.
With all of these missions taking place at once, the 101st led its 19-nation team, enabling Iraq to take back most of its country from Da'esh. ISF also began their major counter-offensive to take back Mosul, the final enemy stronghold in the country -- a mission many believed wouldn't start until the new year.
But the 101st, the Coalition and ISF had different plans.
"I specifically want to thank all of the Soldiers, Sailors Airmen, Marines, and our 19 coalition partner nations in CJFLCC for all of their hard work, determination, and never quit attitude," said Volesky. "The combined efforts of this team of teams has enabled the Iraqi Security Forces to surpass expectations as they systematically liberated Da'esh territory."