CAMP VICTORY, Iraq -- A bright red and white flag with the words "Climb to Glory" now flies above Multi-National Division - Center headquarters, symbolizing the transfer of authority from the 3rd Infantry Division to the 10th Mountain Division, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
General David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Forces - Iraq and Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander of Multi-National Corps - Iraq, as well as Iraqi government officials and military leaders, were on hand to witness the transfer of authority from Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of 3rd Inf. Div., to Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, commander of 10th Mountain Division.
Oates pledged support to the people of Iraq, pointing out the division is committed to sustaining the advances in security that have been made in the region. He also said 10th Mountain Division will do all it can to help Iraq economically and politically.
"The courageous Iraqi Security Forces will enjoy our complete support as they rid the area of the remaining extremist groups and provide the security the Iraqi people deserve," said Oates, a native of San Antonio, Texas. "We pledge to do our best to assist our partners in building on the impressive security and economic gains made by Task Force Marne.
"With the cooperative attitude and true partnership of the Iraqi people, I believe we can continue to make Iraq safer so that the Iraqi people can chart their own political and economic destiny free or extremism and interference."
In his remarks, Austin applauded the many accomplishments of MND-C under the TF Marne banner. He said over the past year the division was able to block the entry of accelerants into Baghdad, provide better security for Iraqis and slow the spread of sectarian violence.
"Over the past 15 months, the Multi-National Division - Center, under the direction of Major General Rick Lynch, has achieved much more than ever could be expected," Austin said.
Task Force Marne is credited with blocking accelerants from getting into Baghdad, securing the population, and defeating sectarian violence in order to create conditions for long-term Iraqi self reliance, he said. Since March of last year, Austin pointed out MND - C turned an al-Qaeda sanctuary near Arab Jabour into "an economic hope for the region."
"They provided 64 microgrants to the local businesses to help them get their doors open to the public," said Austin, a native of Thomasville, Ga. "And because of the much improved security, the division opened a community center and several schools. "The division's security efforts have reduced all forms of attack by 89 percent," he added.
For the Iraqi officials and military members in the audience, Austin said today's ceremony means the people of Iraq can rely on continued progress in the MND - C area of operations.
"I know the future efforts of the 10th Mountain team will positively impact the future of millions of Iraqis," Austin said. "Much has been achieved in the past year and I know even more will be accomplished in the next year."
Meanwhile, Lynch said his Dog-Face Soldiers are thankful and proud to have served the people of Iraq, but know that they leave MND - C in good hands.
"I know Gen. Oates and the Soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division will take this mission to a higher level," said Lynch, a native of Hamilton, Ohio. "They are here to make a difference, and I'm sure they will."
Under the name "Task Force Mountain", the 10th Mountain Division will be responsible for command and control of U.S. and Coalition forces in south and southeast Baghdad, as well as Karbala, Najaf, Babil and Wasit Provinces.
Other division objectives include helping with economic development and governance, increasing security for the Iraqi people, and assisting with training and transitioning of Iraqi Security Forces.
The Iraq deployment is a first for the Fort Drum, N.Y. based unit. The headquarters of approximately 1,000 Soldiers previously deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 to 2007 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.