BASRA, Iraq (Army News Service, April 1, 2009) - British Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon turned over responsibility for overseeing security in Iraq's southern province to U.S. Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of the new Multi-National Division-South, in a ceremony Tuesday at Basra International Airport.

Oates and MND-South now support Iraqi Security Forces operations over nine provinces in southern Iraq.

In effect, Multi-National Division-Center absorbed MND-Southeast into its operating area, forming MND-South, during the transfer of responsibility ceremony.

After six years of deployment in southeast Iraq, about 4,000 British troops remain. They are scheduled to redeploy this summer.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, Multi-National Force-Iraq commanding general, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin III, Multi-National Corps-Iraq commander, Government of Iraq officials and ISF leaders were on hand to witness the transfer.

Austin congratulated the outgoing command for all their accomplishments in Basra.

"We thank you very much for your service to the Coalition and the Iraqi people. You have been an essential part in Basra's hard-won and new-found freedom," Austin said.

The MNC-I commander encouraged the newly-formed MND-South to continue the high standards set by MND-SE.

"As we farewell the Multi-National Division -- Southeast, we welcome the Multi-National Division - South...10th Mountain Division Soldiers are the right team for the work that remains," said Austin, who commanded the 10th Mtn. Div. from September of 2003 to August of 2005.

"(They) have made significant strides in providing security in central and southern Iraq by partnering with the Iraqi Security Forces over the past year," Austin said. "Now they will expand their great partnership with the Iraqi Security Forces throughout the entire south."

Oates, who was responsible for eight provinces as MND-C commander, expressed his appreciation for United Kingdom contributions here, calling the U.S. and British relationship outstanding.

"It's a bittersweet day for me to have them leave," said Oates, a native of San Antonio, Texas. "I'm enormously proud of them and I think the people of Great Britain should be very proud of their Army."

The MND-S's objectives in Basra include helping with economic development and governance, increasing security for the Iraqi people and assisting with training and transitioning of Iraqi Security Forces.