BAGHDAD - In a ceremony March 31, the final portion of Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah, consisting of almost seven square miles and 200 buildings, was transferred back to the Iraqi Military Academy - Rustamiyah in southeast Baghdad.
"This morning, the American mission at Rustamiyah comes to an end," said Maj. Gen. Daniel Bolger, commander of Multi-National Division - Baghdad and one of the signers of the FOB transfer documents.
Up to 4,000 Coalition service members called FOB Rustamiyah 'home' during the last six years. As of today, Iraqi Security Forces will call IMA - Rustamiyah 'home.'
"There's no longer a need for so many exclusively U.S. bases," said Bolger, who hails from Aurora, Ill. This transfer back to the Iraqis is important for two reasons, he added.
"First, it shows our continued work with Iraqis as part of the security agreement," Bolger said. But this is just an element of transferring more and more security responsibility to ISF, he added.
"Second, this base is going to be part of their military academy," said Bolger.
The IMA - Rustamiyah was founded in 1924 and has a nine-month long course dedicated to teaching leadership, ethics and values to the future leaders of the Iraqi military.
"It's no secret for everybody to see the importance of FOB Rustamiyah," said Maj. Gen. Hussein Jassim, executive chief of staff of the IA for training. "This camp and this academy has trained and graduated many generations of great leaders."
The IMA - Rustamiyah will continue to be a reliable source for future ISF leaders for a long time, continued Jassim.
"We promise our people to make this army professional, independent and loyal to this country," said Jassim.
Along with highly-trained ISF personnel graduating from the IMA - Rustamiyah, the community also gains an opportunity for employment here.
"Rustamiyah is an additional opportunity for them to come and work this whole area," added Bolger. "I would tell any Iraqi citizen in the local area who's got some construction skills to line up for work 'cause there's going to be work coming!"
Coalition force partners are placing the future of Rustamiyah and Iraq in capable hands, as this transfer is one example of moving in that direction.
CF partners are moving toward a different relationship with the ISF based more on an advisor and assist role, rather than a combat role, added Bolger.
Yet, the hope for the future rests on the triumphs of the past.
"All this today was made possible by American, Coalition and Iraqi Soldiers and Police who fought for and protected this ground so it would be ready to transition today," emphasized Bolger. "We should never forget that."