Base Transfer Ceremony honors fallen warrior, recognizes bright future
Multi-National Division – North PAO
CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE SPEICHER, TIKRIT, Iraq – U.S. Soldiers lowered the American flag and Iraqi Soldiers raised the Iraqi flag to signify the change of Forward Operating Base Paliwoda into the Iraqi-led Balad Joint Coordination Center during a ceremony near Balad, Iraq June 15.
The Balad JCC combines Iraqi Army and Police coordination elements, along with civilian emergency response functions, together in one location. A small number of U.S. Soldiers focused on intelligence and aviation coordination will provide support to the center.
“This ceremony represents the formal transition for the role of our partnered security forces,” said Lt. Col. David Hodne, the commander of 3rd Squadron, 4th U.S. Cavalry, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division said. Hodne’s Soldiers ran the base until the transfer ceremony.
Hodne spoke to a crowd of more than 100 local dignitaries, Iraqi Soldiers and policemen, local media and U.S. Soldiers who came to witness the transfer ceremony.
“The new role of U.S. forces in Balad district will be one of reconstruction,” he added, describing the role of his Soldiers under the Security Agreement as one of enabling, advising, assisting and building, while the Iraqi Security forces protect the population.
Working together out of the JCC will allow the ISF to take advantage of U.S. technology, including intelligence and aviation support, while U.S. Soldiers focus on reconstruction projects in the district.
“We will continue to partner with the Iraqi security forces to remove the catalyst of hate that serves as the only true obstacle to a prosperous Iraq. Even in the initial week of operations from this JCC, we’ve enjoyed success previously not achieved while we occupied separate facilities,” he said.
Iraqi security forces have been able to rapidly respond to intelligence and tips that come into the joint center. One indirect fire attack was stopped and one fleeing criminal was apprehended in the past week - the first week of operations in the coordination center - thanks to all the security forces working out of the same center, according to Hodne.
The squadron has been preparing to transfer the FOB to the Government of Iraq since the implementation of the security agreement, according to Capt. Benjamin Seibert, the squadron’s assistant operations officer.
“We have been preparing for this since early January. We spoke to many of the local government officials, the mayor of Balad, the JCC director, Iraqi Army commanders and city council members who all had a say in the future of the base,” Seibert said. “Lt. Col. Hodne decided to change our tactical operation center into this stadium seat-style coordination center to create greater partnership with our forces and the Iraqi security forces.”
U.S. Forces had used the base, initially known as FOB Eagle, since 2003. FOB Eagle was renamed FOB Paliwoda in 2004, in memory of Capt. Eric Paliwoda who was killed there during a mortar attack in January, 2004.
“I cannot help but pause, every time I hear the name Paliwoda mentioned in reference to this proud base,” said Hodne. “Today, we remove his name from this base. Years from now, in what will be the Iraqi District that represents prosperity and progress, few will remember his name. Not out of disrespect, but simply out of the natural shift in priorities associated with the end of conflict and Iraqi sovereignty,” he added.
After Hodne and the local officials signed a memorandum for the base transfer, the crowd moved out to the flagpoles and Paliwoda memorial plaque. When the Iraqi flag was fully raised, Hodne removed the weather beaten plaque. He will send it, along with the last U.S. flag flown over the base and a letter from the Balad JCC director, to the Paliwoda family in recognition of Eric Paliwoda’s sacrifice and service to his nation and also for the people of Iraq.