BASRAH, Iraq, June 24, 2011 -- Three joint security stations located in southern Iraq were signed over to the Iraqis June 19-22, 2011.

U.S. military officers met with Iraqi officials at Sifer and Al Sheeb in Maysan Province and Minden located in Basrah Province to sign over control of the three stations as the U.S. continues its responsible drawdown.

“The significance of these last three sites is that they were done with very little advanced notice,” said Lt. Col. Charles Schoening, division engineer and chief of transition, 36th Infantry Division, Austin, Texas. “We got approval to close Sheeb, Sifer and Minden June 1, which is right around three weeks, and prior to that no bases had been closed in that short a time period,” he added, emphasizing the efficiency of the drawdown.

Preparing each site for the transition included many steps to ensure that the bases were in proper order once returned to the government of Iraq.

“There is an exhaustive environmental process in order to ensure that when we return these bases, there is nothing hazardous or harmful to the environment left on the bases,” said Schoening. “We have a very good ongoing environmental program, so if there is an incident, say a fuel spill, we have a process for getting that cleaned up immediately,” he added.

The official turnover occurred not in a public forum, but in the privacy of small meeting rooms located at each station, including Sifer, located on the Iranian border.

Today we start our full responsibility in taking care of the security in our area, said Iraqi Army Staff Brig. Gen. Waleed Hussein. The American side has cooperated with the Ministry of Interior and provided the proper training for our troops. We would like to thank the American forces for their cooperation and we wish them success, added Hussein.

Possession of Minden, the third station located in Barsa Province, successfully transferred from U.S. forces to the government of Iraq June 22, 2011.

“This is another step forward in the transitioning of bases to the nation of Iraq,” said Capt. Steven Moya, division engineer basing officer, 36th Inf. Div. “This event signifies the teamwork and cooperation between the two coalition forces,” he added.

“A very important part of our mission here is turning a portion of the Contingency Operating Base Basra footprint into the Basra consulate for the Department of State,” said Schoening. “We have worked very closely with our Department of State counterparts to ensure that they have adequate resources onsite for their security, their life support and their enduring operations as the Basra consulate after we are gone from theater by the end of the year,” he said.

The transition of control at the three security stations brings the U.S. one step closer toward the departure of U.S. forces in Iraq, and helps empower the Iraqi government’s stability as Operation New Dawn comes closer to completion.

“It’s a good step in the right direction,” said 1st Lt. Daniel Cosentino, executive officer for Company D, 3-8 Cav., after the Al Sheeb property was transferred to the Iraqi government. “It’s time that we hand it over and we let them take ownership of their country.”