Coalition Transfers Base to Iraqi Army
By Spc. Brian Schroeder, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
"This represents a tremendous growth and ability of the Iraqi security forces to assume on their own duties of manning an important outpost," said Lt. Col. Loepoldo Quintas, commander, 2nd Battalion, 70th Armored Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.
Gen. Aziz Swady, 3rd Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division commander and his soldiers were passed the torch of control for Raider Base. Aziz promised the Iraqi people that they will defend the base with their lives.
"We will never forget the good that the coalition forces have done for our city and the good you have done to help our country," Aziz said. "To the people of Abu Ghraib and the Iraqi people, we will be faithful soldiers and protect our base."
The efforts of the Iraqi Army have had a positive effect on anti-Iraqi attacks in the city of Abu Ghraib. Since the Iraqi 3rd Brigade became a main presence in the area in May, the total number roadside bombs, mortar and rocket attacks have dropped from seven attacks per day to only two per day. Several key targets and insurgents have also been detained.
Raider Base was initially established in June 2003 under Quintas' command after the coalition's march to Baghdad that March. The base served as a stopping point for coalition patrols in and out of the city. It was transferred to the 2nd BCT's 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, in November 2004.
The base was named in honor of the battalion's 2nd Platoon "Raiders" after unit member Pfc. John Rager died and many other platoon soldiers were wounded July 19, 2003, during an attack on a checkpoint near the base.
Quintas, along with three soldiers from the platoon who originally guarded the base, took part in the ceremony. "This is a tribute to all the soldiers -- U.S., Estonian and Iraqi -- who have served at this base," Quintas said. "We are honored to take place in Iraq's history."
Located near the Abu Ghraib markets, Raider Base was once the former location of the city's municipal buildings. On Sept. 30, 2004, a malicious terrorist attack from a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device destroyed the main seats of the city government, fire department and police station.
Quintas said because of its strategic location, Raider Base has always been a thorn in the side of the enemy. "Though the misfortune of a VBIED destroyed the main municipal building of the city, this base lives on," Quintas said. "The Iraqi Army is here to stay."
The U.S. units' colors were lowered, cased and marched off the ceremonial field, leaving the Iraqi flag to fly high above the walls of Raider Base.
"Today is a historic day," said Col. Mark A. Milley, 2nd BCT commander. "We gather for this humble ceremony surrounded by mud, dust and the remnances of war. From those ashes, Iraq has risen like a phoenix. The Iraqi colors now stand free and tall."
(Army Spc. Brian Schroeder is assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.)
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