CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, Iraq " Flags fluttered in the warm Iraqi wind as Soldiers of Task Force ODIN marked the next chapter in their mission to defeat the improvised explosive device threat in northern Iraq, with a Transfer of Authority ceremony at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Iraq, June 14.
The outgoing Soldiers of Task Force ODIN V, slated to redeploy to the U.S. after a yearlong deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, accomplished their mission with the utmost professionalism and competence, said Lt. Col. Nicholas Arata, outgoing commander, Task Force ODIN V.
Task Force ODIN is a battalion-sized element comprised of various active duty and reserve units designed to observe, detect, identify and neutralize improvised explosive devices using both manned and unmanned aerial reconnaissance assets.
“It was nearly 12 months ago when I said a few words on a morning much like today, speaking about how our Soldiers had been preparing for this deployment, our special training, and the days that lay ahead,” Arata said. “We came into this deployment ready to make a difference, and as we crossed each phase line along the way, I have never been more proud of the Soldiers of this task force.”
With the ceremonial casing of the Task Force ODIN V colors, Arata and Command Sgt. Maj. Mickey Somers, the task force’s senior enlisted leader, officially ended their tenure as the eye in the sky for Soldiers of U.S. Division " North.
Through the uncasing of the Task Force ODIN VI colors, Lt. Col. Jon Tussing and Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Mason assumed responsibility for the task force’s mission to provide aerial reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition for ground forces across northern Iraq.
“We have the best Soldiers in the world here and outside the wire,” said Tussing. “They deserve the best support we can provide them. We understand the requirements, we have the right people and equipment, and we are ready to make it happen. Remember, Task Force ODIN will always be watching.”
During the ceremony, Brig. Gen. Michael Garrett, deputy chief of staff, U.S. Forces-Iraq, thanked Arata and Soldiers of Task Force ODIN V for their excellent work during the course of their deployment, and expressed confidence in Tussing and his team to continue providing overwatch for service members deployed in support of Operation New Dawn.
“Task Force ODIN V has set an incredibly high standard for the task force in this theater and the future theaters of operation,” said Garrett. “They have left some pretty big shoes to fill but I have the utmost confidence that Jon Tussing and his Soldiers are up to the challenge.”
Major Stephen Shure, operations officer, Task Force ODIN V, said he saw a visible drop off in the number and effectiveness of attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces during his yearlong deployment as a part of U.S. Division-North.
“We own the day,” said Shure, who hails from Merchantville, N.J. “We have been very effective in defeating much of the IED threat in Iraq over the past 12 months.”
The new Soldiers filling the ranks of Task Force ODIN VI must remain vigilant to keep insurgent activity in Iraq to a minimum, said Shure.
“The fact that we are finding fewer IEDs highlights the fact that we are accomplishing the mission,” he said. “But just because business is down doesn’t mean we aren’t vital to the mission. If we find one IED, it is worth it.”