SOUTHWEST ASIA (September 22, 2015) – Adding to its storied history and legacy, III Corps unfurled its colors once again in the Middle East and assumed responsibility of Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) during a Transfer of Authority ceremony held at the CJTF-OIR headquarters.
Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commander, U.S. Central Command, passed the CJTF-OIR colors from Lt. Gen. James L. Terry to Lt. Gen. Sean B. MacFarland relinquishing command and signifying the start of III Corps to lead the coalition of more than 60 nations in operations to defeat Da’ esh.
“You have done what was necessary,” Austin said in praising Terry and the coalition under his watch. “As a direct result of your continuing efforts, many lives have been saved and others were spared the horror of slavery and mistreatment.
Together, we have been fighting the barbaric enemy, ISIL, for more than 15 months. And while we are still in the early stages of this campaign, let there be no doubt that we are making progress.”
Austin also recognized the key role coalition partners have contributed to the campaign.
“I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge our regional partners and recognize all of our coalition partners from around the globe who add tremendous value to this very important campaign. We remain deeply grateful for your continued, strong support.”
In relinquishing command of the coalition task force, Terry expressed how nearly 16 months earlier, he watched on television in disbelief the atrocities being committed by Da’esh on the Iraqi people. He told the audience he knew the United States and the world had to respond.
“On August 8, 2014, I authorized the release of munitions to destroy Da’esh as they threatened Erbil and attacked innocent and unarmed people in vicinity of Sinjar Mountain,” Terry said. “I will always remember that day because it is when we stood against this enemy. However, the day I will remember above all others is October 17, 2014. That is when we, as a team, came into existence. That is the day the coalition was formed.”
Terry highlighted key successes by Iraqi forces since the coalition stood up, but reminded the coalition members to continue to challenge themselves to produce more capable forces to represent and secure the people of Iraq and Syria.
Acknowledging the honor of taking on the CJTF-OIR mission, MacFarland mentioned the nature of the enemy that the coalition is up against.
“This group calls itself the Islamic State, or Da’esh. Its leaders condone and even encourage the murder of children, rape, enslavement, torture, and barbaric executions,” MacFarland said. “The civilized world has responded to this challenge by rejecting its twisted ideology of Da’esh, along with the terrorists and murderers that follow them. And that response can be seen right here in this room, a coalition of sixty nations who have come together to create this combined joint task force to assist our regional partners in defending their citizens and their sovereignty from this evil.”
MacFarland praised the U.S. Army Central Command for their efforts in building the coalition task force and making gains over the past year to halt the enemy’s advance.
Coalition countries in the CJTF-OIR have committed more than 1,500 troops to train, advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces at five locations in Iraq and have disrupted the Da’ esh network in Syria. Coalition efforts over the past year have included lethal air strikes against Da’ esh targets and fighters, facilitation of training for Iraqi, Pershmega and tribal forces, and delivered millions of short tons in supplies and materials to the combined joint operations area.
In his closing remarks MacFarland emphasized both the complexity and necessity of the CJTF mission.
“To those who say that Iraq is hopeless, that the Middle East is a Gordian knot that can never be untangled, I say you’re wrong,” MacFarland said. “Defeating Da’esh and improving stability in the region are difficult tasks, but not beyond the scope of human capability. I don’t know when we’ll succeed, but I believe that our coalition will one day accomplish our mission – because we must. ”