By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Former 3rd ID deputy commander takes command in Iraq
U.S. Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, left, receives the command colors from U.S. Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, commander, U.S. Central Command, at Wednesday’s change-of-command ceremony in Baghdad for U.S. forces in Iraq. Austin relieved Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, right, as commander of the remaining forces in Iraq, marking the end of U.S. combat operations in the country. - photo by U.S. Army photo
Army Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III took over the top command in Iraq Wednesday in a change-of-command ceremony held at the al Faw Palace in Baghdad. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno handed the reins of the command to Austin before such prominent guests as Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey, 3rd Infantry Division Commander Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo and Iraqi security leaders.
Austin previously served under Odierno at the start of the Iraq war. On June 30, he was confirmed by the Senate to replace Odierno as leader of United States Forces Iraq.
The change in command coincided with the official end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.
“The United States has ended its combat mission in Iraq,” Biden said before the ceremony. “Iraqi troops are taking lead responsibility for their country’s security.”
The United States kept its promise to draw down troops and end Operation Iraqi Freedom and put in place Operation New Dawn, the vice president said. It means that the 50,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq are involved solely in training and mentoring Iraqi units. There is a residual counterinsurgency mission, but even that is Iraqi-led.
Gates praised Odierno for his leadership in Iraq. During Odierno’s tenure, the command shifted from multinational forces Iraq to U.S. forces Iraq. Odierno shifted American forces out of the cities and sculpted the advise and assist mission.
Odierno will now head the U.S. Joint Forces Command, which is based in Norfolk, Va.
“He leaves as one of the few U.S. Army generals in history to command a division, corps and entire theater in the same conflict,” Gates said.
Odierno’s mission was to build on the hard-fought gains of the surge, and expand the capacity and capabilities of Iraq’s army and police.
Gates said the command is fortunate to get Austin as its new leader. The general most recently served as the director of the Joint Staff. Before that he was the corps commander in Iraq and served with the 3rd Infantry Division in the initial invasion of Iraq in 2003.
“Lloyd Austin — like Ray Odierno — has always led by example, asking nothing of his troops that he would not do himself,” Gates said. “He has the unique distinction of being awarded the Silver Star for valor as a general officer, leading from the front during the 3rd Infantry Division’s march to Baghdad more than seven years ago.
Austin pledged to continue cooperation with the Iraqi security forces, even as the functions of his command transfer to civilian control. Operation New Dawn is an enduring commitment to a new relationship with the Iraqi people, he said.
“It will require a comprehensive and coherent approach by all U.S. government entities, international organizations and the Iraqi government,” Austin said. “The result of that teamwork will be a stable, secure and self-reliant Iraq that benefits the entire region.”
Sign up for our e-newsletters