Skip to comments.Australian troops take on new role
Posted on 08/12/2006 3:30:35 PM PDT by SandRat
The formation of Overwatch Battlegroup West has opened a new chapter in the Australian armys long and distinguished history of military operations in the Middle East.
Formerly known as Al Muthanna Task Group 3, the 450-strong Australian unit is tasked with providing operational supervision in support of Provincial Iraqi Control in Al Muthanna province, southern Iraq.
Al Muthanna on July 13 became the first province in Iraq to achieve PIC. It gives Iraqi security forces the lead role in maintaining a secure environment for their people.
Following Iraqi control, Multi-National Forces in the province began handing over their bases, a process completed on July 26 when the last Australian and British elements left Camp Smitty.
Battlegroup commander Lt. Col. Michael Mahy said operational supervision in Al Muthanna was a new experience for Coalition forces in Iraq.
This is a first for both MNF and the Australian army, and were extremely proud to have been given this very important role, Mahy said.
PIC was a great day in the history of modern Iraq, said Mahy.
He said Coalition forces have all worked hard to make this day happen.
In a dangerous environment the unassuming professionalism, pragmatism and dedication of Australian soldiers has made this day a reality for the people of Al Muthanna, he said.
Coalition forces now can take a back seat and support Iraqi forces when needed.
The Iraqi army, the Iraqi police service and the Department of Border Enforcement now have the lead for security in Al Muthanna province, he said.
Iraqi forces and the Iraqi government are now in charge.
All public institutions and services are now under the control of a democratically elected Iraqi government and that the future direction of the province will now be set by Iraqis, said Mahy.
Mahy said elements would continue to visit the province to conduct routine engagement with Iraqi forces leadership. The goal is to help monitor, mentor and strengthen an already strong friendship.
He praised the men and women of OBG-W for their courage and dedication to duty in dangerous and difficult conditions since deploying as AMTG 3.
All Australians can be proud of what the task groups have achieved, and continue to achieve, in Iraq. Theyre a credit to the army, and its a privilege for me to be their commanding officer, Mahy said.
MND-SE Chief of Staff British Army Col. James Cowan said the creation of OBG-W was a landmark event.
Its always rewarding to work in partnership with Australian troops, Cowan said.
We share a common bond of professionalism, which has ensured the force in Al Muthanna province is a cohesive one.
Australian National Commander Brig. Mick Moon praised the efforts of the Australian army in Iraq.
This unit is breaking new ground in the reconstruction mission in Iraq, he said.
I have absolute confidence in your ability in setting the conditions for those Coalition forces that will follow your example, said Moon.
Story by Australian Maj. Mark Tanzer