Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre (center left) and Macedonian Soldiers come together one last time for an end of mission ceremony at the Schoolcraft Pavilion, Nov. 26, 2008. Photo by Maj. Allen Hing, 2nd Stryker Brigade 25th Infantry Division.
— After eleven rotations since the beginning months of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Macedonian Soldiers are ending their part of the Coalition forces mission here.
The end-of-mission ceremony was “bittersweet” for Coalition forces, as this longtime partner was closing a chapter on its partnership in Iraq.
“Around 450 troops have passed through this mission, and a lot of experience has been brought to the republic of Macedonia and the Soldiers of Macedonia,” said Col. Krume Velkov, director of the general staff of the armed forces for the Republic of Macedonia. “This is certainly a very significant chapter of our history.”
In the past five years, the Macedonian Soldiers have fought side by side with the Coalition and have experienced the progress in Iraq.
“The Coalition has been very fortunate to have the dedicated support of nations like the Republic of Macedonia. They have stood with the Coalition and with the Iraqi Security Forces over the past few years,” said Marine Maj. Gen. Paul Lefebvre, deputy commanding general, Multi-National Corps – Iraq. “Because of your efforts over the past five years, the security condition for thousands of Iraqi citizens has greatly improved.”
The Macedonian-Coalition partnerships grew and provided teamwork that furthered every aspect of the mission in northwest Baghdad.
“We are witnesses of the outstanding achievements of the Macedonian platoons and close this chapter on our partnership here in Iraq,” said Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, Multi-National Division – Baghdad. “The partnership of Soldiers like the outstanding Macedonians will be sorely missed.”
The Macedonian force consists of two platoons: an infantry security platoon and a ranger platoon.
Most recently, the infantry platoon provided security, controlling entry points into Combined Operating Base Taji while partnered with 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment. They manned gates and entry points that screened more than 4,000 persons and several thousand vehicles.
“The Macedonian platoon was an invaluable asset to our mission. They performed superbly and were truly a combat multiplier,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Gleichenhaus, commander 2nd Bn., 11th FA Regt. “More importantly, our partnership allowed their Soldiers to learn firsthand how to work with Coalition forces. They gained knowledge of another culture and country and built friendships that will last a lifetime.
”Our Soldiers have a better understanding of what it means to carry the flag of their home country on their shoulder and will always strive to represent the United States Army as well as their Macedonian brothers represented theirs.”
The Macedonian Rangers spent their tour with the 1st Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons”, 2nd SBCT, 25th Inf. Div.
“While partnered with the Macedonian Ranger platoons, they were absolutely spectacular,” said Maj. Todd Woodruff, executive officer, 1st Bn. 14th Inf. Regt. “Our partnership could not have been closer. Golden Dragon Soldiers and the Macedonian Soldiers have lived together, fought together and improved security over the Tarmiyah area.”
The Macedonian accomplishments are far reaching, beyond the time spent with the Coalition forces.
“They can go home knowing the (Iraqi) people have security and a great future. The people of Tarmiyah owe much of their security to the Macedonian Rangers. We will greatly miss them and their relationship as partners,” said Woodruff.
CF and Macedonian leaders exchanged gifts, smiles and handshakes during the ceremony.
(By Maj. Al Hing, Multi-National Division – Baghdad PAO)