Regimental Combat Team 8, commanded by Col. John K. Love, and RCT-6, commanded by Col. Matthew A. Lopez, the last two remaining Marine Corps Regiments to deploy in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, transferred authority of the areas of operation to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 82nd Airborne Advisory and Assistance Brigade, commanded by Col. Mark R. Stammer, aboard Camp Ramadi, Iraq, Sept. 26, 2009.
Cpl. Meg Murray, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward)
CAMP RAMADI, Iraq – Marines and soldiers stand ready in formation. Distinguished guests begin to filter in. Among them are prominent Iraqi government leaders, paramount sheikhs, Iraqi Police and Army generals, and U.S. military members from all services and units across Iraq. The air is thick with excitement, and more importantly, hope.
More than six years of Marine perseverance led up to this single indispensable moment – the moment the last Marine Corps Ground Combat Element in Iraq would depart, having completed their mission in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On Sept. 26, 2009, a date that will forever be marked in history, Regimental Combat Team 6, commanded by Col. Matthew A. Lopez, and RCT-8, commanded by Col. John K. Love, the last two remaining Marine Corps RCTs to deploy in support of OIF, transferred authority of their areas of operation to the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team (Advise and Assist Brigade) of the 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Army Col. Mark R. Stammer.
The transfer of authority ceremony marked an occasion that is quite possibly the most historically prominent event for Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom since the initial invasion in 2003.
“It is an understatement to say that we have witnessed historic events in Iraq this year, and today’s ceremony is certainly an example of positive change as we transition U.S. combat forces to a new formation – one whose name is synonymous with its mission, the Advise and Assist Brigade,” said Maj. Gen. R.T. Tryon, the commanding general of Multi National Force – West. “These gains have been accomplished not because of what the U.S. forces have done, nor because of what the Iraqi Security Forces have done. Rather, these achievements are a result of what we have done together in partnership with one another.”
RCT-6 and RCT-8 have served as the ground combat element for the Marine Air Ground Task Force in Western Al Anbar province for the last nine months, but as of Sept. 26, the Advise and Assist Brigade became the new ground combat element for MNF-W.
“There is an old saying that success is born of a thousand fathers, but that failure is an orphaned child,” said Lopez. “The success of the past nine months is indeed the work of a thousand fathers, those Marine and Army units that have gone before the RCT in the East, as well as our [Iraqi Security Forces] brothers.”
Standing on the shoulders of those who came before them, RCT-6 and RCT-8, working “ by, with and through” their Iraqi counterparts, accomplished many great successes. Among that long list of deeds are building schools for Iraqi children, bringing fresh drinking water to more than 100,000 people, providing the city of Karma with a development center, facilitating the provincial elections, promoting security initiatives in the East, and establishing district development strategies in the West.
“This historic period of time in Al Anbar could not have come to fruition without the hard work and dedication of Iraqi leaders, Iraqi Security Forces, and our Marine brothers-in-arms,” said Love. “[The Marines] have performed magnificently, working alongside their Iraqi counterparts to help forge a new way of life for the citizens of Al Anbar, and indeed, all of Iraq.”
As RCT-6 and RCT-8 head back to Camp Lejeune, N.C., they can proudly reflect on their accomplishments, knowing they have helped to provide the citizens of Iraq with a reason to look toward a future of peace, stability and prosperity throughout their sovereign nation.