MUQDADIYA, Iraq (Army News Service, Oct. 2, 2006) - Iraqis assumed control over a larger portion of their country during an Iraqis in the Lead Ceremony at Forward Operating Base Normandy Oct. 1.

The ceremony symbolized the 3rd Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division's assumption of control of the northern region of Diyala Province in and around Muqdadiya. The region was formerly under the control of the 2nd Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, Task Force Lightning.

"Transferring of authority to our brigade is proof of the capability and high capacity that enable us to be at the lead of the military operations within the Muqdadiya area of operations," said Gen. Rahman Jerry Challab, commander of the 3rd Bde., 5th IAD, through an interpreter during the ceremony.

The brigade was initially formed in Taji before coming to the Muqdadiya area. The 3rd Bde. is the final brigade of the 5th IAD to assume control of a portion of Diyala Province. Previously, the second and first brigades, as well as the division headquarters, conducted similar validation exercises and ceremonies in which the units assumed control of a portion of the province.

While the Iraqi soldiers are assuming a larger role in the future of their country, help will be at the ready.

"Coalition forces stand ready to provide full support of our resources in order to assist you in providing impartial security to the Iraqi people," said Col. Brian Jones, commander, 3rd HBCT.

While conducting operations with the Stryker Brigade for the past 11 months, the 3rd Bde., 5th IAD, has been at the front lines defending the Iraqi people against forces seeking to destroy the young democracy.

"After the successful missions conducted by our brave soldiers in targeting terrorist locations, we have achieved many victories against the enemy. We were able to weaken and destroy their organized networking by detaining their leaders," Rahman said. "The 3rd Bde. has given many martyrs. These martyrs have left their heroic prints in the hearts of their brothers in arms who will stay loyal for Iraq."

The Government of Iraq has outfitted the soldiers with new equipment, weapons and vehicles.

"But, it is the heart that beats strongly in every jeundi (soldier) that makes this disciplined brigade powerful and feared by the terrorists," Jones said.

Rahman assured the crowd that there is no place for sectarianism within his brigade.

"We do not recognize or differentiate between Iraqis because we work for all Iraqis and not for one sect or one race," he said. "Our ultimate goal is to provide security and maintain stability."