CAMP MARMAL, Afghanistan -- During this past year, Soldiers of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, trained and prepared for a unique mission in an unfamiliar area of operations. The brigade, with a plethora of combat veterans from the war in Iraq, was faced with a new challenge: deploy and execute combat operations in the rugged and mountainous terrain of Afghanistan.

The culmination of the brigade's training and preparation for this new mission occurred during a transfer of authority ceremony here July 1.

During the ceremony, the brigade uncased its colors and officially took charge of U.S. aviation operations in Regional Command North, a role previously held by the outgoing unit, the 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.

The commander of the outgoing unit, Col. Daniel Williams, took the opportunity during the ceremony to reflect on the accomplishments attained by his unit during the past year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Williams, at times emotional, noted in his speech that his unit flew almost 70,000 flight hours in support of combat operations and that 4th CAB's medevac crews saved more than 800 lives during the past year.

"The Iron Eagles can be justifiably and uniquely proud," said Williams.

"Our mission was to regain the initiative," he said. "My personal goal and that of our commanders and Soldiers was to return with honor and valor and we did our best to live up that ideal."

Moreover, Williams expressed his well wishes for the incoming command team as he ended his speech.

"I wish you god-speed and a successful year in combat," he said. "You came well prepared with a highly disciplined, motivated and trained force. The 4th CAB regained the initiative and the 1st ACB will raise the bar to the next level."

The commander of the 1st ACB, Col. John Novalis, originally from Williamsport, Pa., paying tribute to the unit his troops are relieving, thanked the Iron Eagles for their efforts during the past year and then assured those in attendance that his Soldiers were prepared for the task at hand.

"The Soldiers of the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade are ready for this mission," said Novalis. "They are men and women who live the virtues of courage, patriotism and honor. They are simply the best."

The 1st ACB is the first brigade-sized element of the 1st Cavalry Division to deploy to Afghanistan, joining the division headquarters as the only other element of the division currently deployed in theater.

Novalis, during his address to an audience that included key military leaders from various nations within the Coalition, touched on how trust will foster into success on the battlefield.

"We trust in our Soldiers' training, preparation and discipline to conduct every mission to standard and support the ground commander without fault," said Novalis. "In turn, the Soldier on the ground can trust that the 1st ACB will always be mission ready when called upon."

The deputy commander of RC North, Brig. Gen. Sean Mulholland, praised the Soldiers of the 4th CAB for what he said was the tremendous impact they had on overall combat operations within the regional command.

Furthermore, Mulholland acknowledged the storied history of the 1st ACB and predicted that this generation of 1st ACB troopers will continue that legacy of distinguished combat service.

"I have no doubt that in the next 12 months, the story of the 1st ACB will continue to be one filled with heroism and distinction," said Mulholland. "You will continue where your predecessors left off and will make Combined Team North better."

Finally, Novalis had a message for his colleagues throughout the Coalition.

"To the NATO leaders helping shape the future of this country: the Warrior brigade is honored to fight by your side."