AL-ASAD AIR BASE, Iraq --
Regimental Combat Team 8 relieved Regimental Combat Team 5 at a ceremony here today.
“The only thing that changes today are the names and faces; the mutual respect will still be here; the dedication to accomplish the mission will still be here; the pride and the skill of a great regiment will still be here,” said Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills, the ground combat element commander for I Marine Expeditionary Force Forward.
Regimental Combat Team 5, which hails from Camp Pendleton, Calif., oversaw the pacification of western al-Anbar province during its yearlong tour.
“The most rewarding part of our deployment had been working hand and hand with our Iraqi brethren, as they take their country to the greatly deserved position as a prominent nation on the world’s stage,” said Col. Patrick J. Malay, the commanding officer of RCT-5.
When RCT-5 arrived in January of 2008, attacks hovered around 16 per week and Marine battle positions through the area of operation numbered in the fifties. Attacks are now below two per week and the battle positions, as part of a campaign to reduce the Coalition force footprint, have shrunk to approximately 10.
Regimental Combat Team 8, based out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, will replace RCT-5 and continue the successes of its predecessors in western al-Anbar province.
“We will continue to empower the people and leadership of western al-Anbar, to develop and sustain the transparent, economic, governance, legal, and society capability and capacity in order to defeat the insurgency and facilitate long-term regional stability and development,” said Col. John K. Love, the commanding officer of RCT-8.
RCT-8 will work in partnership with the embedded Provisional Reconstruction Team, providing support to the region’s Iraqi Security Forces and the local government in order to create a stable, peaceful and prosperous Iraq. Additionally, RCT-8 will provide security overwatch for the Iraqi Security Forces.
“RCT-8 returns to find Iraq a much more secure place than it was when the regiment left in 2006, but there is still work to be done. Together in partnership with the Iraq Security Forces, we will relentlessly pursue the remaining elements of insurgents and terrorists, so that the citizens of western al-Anbar can return to a normal life, and so that further economic development will be possible,” said Love.
RCT-8 last deployed to Iraq in 2005.