ABU GHRAIB, Iraq - With the stroke of a pen, the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division took another step forward towards the responsible reduction of forces in Iraq, transferring responsibility of Joint Coordination Center Abu Ghraib to their Iraqi Police partners during a ceremony here April 20.Leaders from the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th SBCT, 2nd Inf. Div., the Abu Ghraib Police district and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior participated in the ceremony, which concluded with the signing of documents, officially transferring the JCC to the Iraqis."Today we transfer over the JCC to the government of Iraq, continuing our journey towards the strategic partnership with the sovereign country of Iraq," said Lt. Col John Leffers, commander of 1st Bn. 38th Inf. Reg.Working closely with Col. Falah, the Abu Ghraib district police chief, 1st Bn. 38th Inf. Reg. Soldiers had maintained a constant presence at the JCC since arriving in country last fall. Past units, as a part of the "Surge", used the JCC as a key location to secure the citizens of Abu Ghraib and provide a quick response for Iraqi Security Forces operating in the area.More recently, a platoon of U.S. Soldiers, living out of tents at the small base would spend roughly two to three days at a time, said Capt. Joshua Betty, commander of Company C 1st Bn. 38th Inf. Reg. C Co. Soldiers from each of Betty's three platoons have been fulfilling that requirement for the past several months, he said.1st Bn. 38th Inf. Reg. Soldiers performed guard duty at the JCC as well as had personnel working in the joint operations center, providing a conduit of communication between U.S. and Iraqi forces, he said.The sharing of intelligence with their Iraqi Police partners helped to improve security in the area, including during the March 7 National Elections. In total, more than 100 combined patrols have been enabled by the close-knit U.S. and Iraqi partners at the JCC during the past six months."It's a sad day for me personally," said Leffers, who said that he enjoys the close relationship he shares with Falah and will miss not being able to visit him as frequently now.The Iraqi commander, calling Leffers his brother, agreed that the day of the handover was a bittersweet one."I am sad that my (time with) my friend and partnership in working with Lt. Col. Leffers is going to end," said Fallah, through a translator, thanking his American ally for his cooperation in keeping the district safe.However the transfer of authority, while significant in the fact that it gives the IPs full responsibility for the installation, does not mean that the close bond between the units will end."For all intensive purposes, relationship-wise, the ceremony just means that we no longer live here," said Betty.
Leffers agreed, saying that the "phenomenal" relationship he has enjoyed with the IPs will continue."Even though we are turning over the JCC today we are still going to remain partners," he said. "The transfer strongly reinforces the confidence of the Government of Iraq and the people of Abu Ghraib in their [Iraqi Police]. They're ready to lead."