Iraqi Army opens Ground Forces Command Headquarters
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A small group of Iraqi and Coalition dignitaries gathered in an undisclosed location in Baghdad May 15, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony marking the opening of the Iraqi Ground Forces Headquarters.
During the Multi-National Corps - Iraq transition of authority ceremony less than a month after the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections, Gen. George Casey, Multi-National Force – Iraq commander, said 2005 would be a year of critical transitions that will inevitably prepare the Iraqi people to create a secure and democratic society within their own country.
This ceremony marks another step forward in the Coalition’s goal of returning power to the Iraqi people.
“We are celebrating today a historical event and the rebuilding of the Iraqi army,” said Iraqi Gen. Abdul Qadir Jassim, Iraqi Ground Forces commander. “Having the headquarters of our ground forces here is an indication of the Iraqi army controlling its own destiny.”
The new Iraqi army is comprised mostly of soldiers who served under Saddam’s regime but have gone through a stringent screening process by Abdul Qadir and Iraq’s Minister of Defense. Many of them have taken pay cuts under the new administration.
Despite a reduction in wages and the constant threat of insurgent attacks against him and his family, one Iraqi general, who wished to remain anonymous, said he is honored to serve his country, and the opening of the headquarters signifies a great transition for the Iraqi army.
“I want to thank (the Coalition) for giving us this chance for a better future, and for helping us to open a new page that will lead us to freedom and a democratic society” the general said.
The general said the location of the new Headquarters building is a starting place to grow the new Iraqi army. With help from the Coalition, they will be able to advance as a military and as a country, to destroy the insurgency, he said.
“Our streets have been covered in blood by [the terrorists], and we want to clean this place with the help of our friends the Americans.”
The Iraqi soldiers will continue to work together to strengthen the Iraqi army, and during a conversation between Jassim and Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, Multi-National Corps – Iraq commander, both agreed they had a lot of work ahead of them.
“I will assure you that we will be good students and learn from you,” Jassim said. “We appreciate your help.”
Vines replied by saying both armies will learn from each other and will continue to move forward in their mutual goals.
. “You are writing history as you form and lead your military,” Vines said. “It is my honor to serve with you in this endeavor.
“Our goal is a free Iraq,” he said. “As soon as you feel you are ready, we will hand over operations, and the Coalition will return to their own countries.”
Closing out Sunday’s ceremony, Broska Noori Shawees, secretary general of the Iraqi ministry of defense, said it is important for the Iraqi army to continue to improve and prepare for the future of their nation.
“The Minister of Defense has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders,” Shawees said. “This is the first time that we are taking command of our armed forces, and in the days ahead we will gain control of our army.
“Every step we make from this day forth is being watched by friends and helped by them,” Shawees said during the ceremony, “You will be the baseline in our country and in the constitution for Iraq. We are all here and will help you, and if not for the help of the Coalition forces we would not be here today.”
“Long live the Iraqi army.”
Note: Story by Army Sgt. David Foley, MNC-I Public Affairs
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Broska Noori Shawees, the secretary general of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, speaks to a crowd of Iraqi and Coalition dignitaries during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Iraqi Ground Forces Headquarters building, May 15, 2005.
An Iraqi color guard raises the Iraqi flag outside of the new Iraqi Ground Forces Headquarters building in Baghdad during a ribbon-cutting ceremony May 15, 2005.
Iraqi Gen. Abdul Qadir Jassim, Iraqi Ground Forces commander, speaks to a crowd of Iraqi and Coalition dignitaries during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Iraqi Ground Forces Headquarters building, May 15, 2005.
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