On New Year's Day 2010, more than 112,000 American troops deployed to Iraq were in theater during yet another landmark in the evolution of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the merger of five major command groups into one single headquarters command, U.S. Forces - Iraq.
"You, our troopers, have been the single element in all that we have done in Iraq with our Iraqi brothers," Gen. David H. Petraeus said. "You have been the ones who have translated concepts and ideas from leaders like General Odierno and me into reality on the ground, under body armor and rucksack, in tough conditions, against an often barbaric enemy."
"This ceremony marks another significant transition here in Iraq," said Petraeus, United States Central Command commanding general. "It represents another important milestone in the continued drawdown of American Forces."
More than 300 U.S. and Iraqi servicemembers and civilians attended the official USF-I activation ceremony at Al Faw Palace.
Gen. Ray Odierno, Multi-National Force - Iraq commander, said goodbye to MNF-I, while subordinate commanders, Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr., commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq; Lt. Gen. Michael D. Barbero, commander of Multi-National Security and Transition Command - Iraq; and Maj. Gen. David Quantcock, Task Force 134 commander, rendered their final honors and cased their colors, signifying the commands' official inactivations.
"Though we are activating a new headquarters today," said Odierno, USF-I commanding general, "the support we give our Iraqi partners will be no different than they received under MNF-I."
MNF-I was established May 15, 2004, taking over command for Combined Joint Task Force 7 to handle all strategic-level operations for coalition forces contributing to OIF.
"Troops from 30 different countries served in the Multi-National Force - Iraq," Air Force Maj. Dennis Kruse, master of ceremonies, said at the ceremony. The major subordinate commands included MNC-I, MNSTC-I, the Joint Contracting Command - Iraq, and TF 38, he continued.
Along with MNF-I, MNC-I was also activated May 15, 2004 as the operational-level headquarters overseeing multi-national divisions and forces in Iraq, which included Multi National Divisions-North, South, and Baghdad, Multi National Force-West, 13th Expeditionary Support Command and Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, as well as 13 separate task forces, brigades and battalion-sized organizations.
To organize, train and equip Iraq's military and police forces, MNSTC-I was established on June 28, 2004. Working closely with the Iraqi Ministries of Defense and Interior, MNSTC-I assisted in forming more than 250 Army and police battalions throughout the country.
"We've made tremendous strides together since the dark days of 2006, 2007," Petraeus said. "The number of attacks per day, including Iraqi data, has been reduced from well over 200 per day in 2007, to fewer than 15 per day in recent months."
Task Force 134 was established on April 15, 2004, to oversee all aspects of the conduct of detainee operations within theater and to serve as the executive agent for execution of theater policy as well as military doctrine.
Their mission was care and custody with dignity and respect.
"Over its history (TF 134) has helped cultivate a foundation of security and stability in this important region of the world," Kruse said.
The respective commanders and command sergeantS major from each deactivating unit stood on either side of the colors.
On the order from MNF-I Command Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Wilson, all rendered last honors to their colors.
"Order arms," Wilson's voice rang through the rotunda. The colors were then cased and retired. The I Corps, USF-I, and NATO Training Mission- Iraq guidons were then unfurled and posted.
Petraeus thanked the Iraqi leaders present for their "tremendous courage and determination in the face of innumerable challenges, continuous threats and periodic tragic losses."
He also expressed his gratitude toward the Iraqi Army. "To my Iraqi brothers in uniform, today's ceremony would not have been possible without your extraordinary courage, devotion to duty and sheer hard work."
Petraeus said thank you to the ambassadors and leaders from other countries that had supported Iraq since 2003, reminding them that their continued diplomatic, economic and cultural contributions remain very important to the new Iraq.