SOUTHWEST ASIA – Lt. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, XVIII Airborne Corps Commanding General, assumed command of the Combined Joint Task Force - Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) from Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland, III Armored Corps Commanding General, during an Aug. 21 ceremony in Southwest Asia, which hosted an audience of hundreds of U.S. and Coalition Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines.
Presiding over the transfer of authority ceremony, was the commanding general for U.S. Central Command, Gen. Joseph L. Votel.
Votel expressed confidence in the team from Fort Bragg to continue pressuring Da’esh.
"We are very fortunate to be welcoming another great team in Lt. Gen. Steve Townsend and Command Sgt. Maj. Benjamin Jones," Votel said. "The XVIII Airborne Corps has very big shoes to fill, but I know they are up to the task and raring to go!”
Over the last several months, soldiers from the XVIII Airborne Corps conducted intense training to prepare for the mission, and Townsend was quick to point out the incredible work already accomplished in the region.
"Over the past year, CJTF-OIR, led by my good friend Lt. Gen. Sean MacFarland and his III Armored Corps, and our coalition and regional partners, have done incredible work to degrade and dismantle ISIL's oppressive and brutal regime,” Townsend said. “Their combined efforts on the ground and in the air have accelerated the campaign, pushed Da'esh back all across the battlefield and achieved remarkable momentum towards Da'esh's ultimate defeat.”
MacFarland reflected on the turning point in the campaign against Da’esh as Iraqi Security Forces drove them out of Ramadi in Dec. 2015.
“Now the enemy is in retreat on all fronts and the Iraqi Security Forces have demonstrated that they can conduct complex and decisive operations," said MacFarland.
Some key accomplishments during the III Armored Corps tour included:
- Trained more than 13,500 members of the Iraqi security forces including over 4,000 Iraqi Army soldiers, 1,500 counter terrorism service soldiers, 6,000 Peshmerga, almost 1,000 Federal police and 300 border guards.
- Increased emphasis on police training and recruiting tribal forces, adding 5,000 trained local police and over 20,000 tribal fighters enrolled.
- Conducted about 50,000 sorties against Da’esh in the past year, in which more than 30,000 munitions were dropped on the enemy with approximately two-thirds of those in Iraq and about one-third in Syria.
- These strikes have enabled the liberation of more than 25,000 total square kilometers from Da’esh. That's nearly half of what the enemy once controlled in Iraq and 20 percent of what they once controlled in Syria.
- Conducted more than 200 strikes against oil and natural gas activities of the enemy, which reduced their oil revenue stream by approximately 50 percent.
- Vigorously attacked enemy leadership, command and control and weapons manufacturing capability to include more than 25 bulk cash storage sites, resulting in at least half a billion dollars destroyed.
Townsend shared his vision for the CJTF-OIR mission ahead.
“Let me say for all to hear, friend and foe alike - we will continue the attack against ISIL, and we will defeat them in Iraq and Syria on our watch," Townsend said.
The XVIII Airborne Corps most recently returned from deployment in Afghanistan in Dec. 2014 where it led the NATO operational headquarters in Kabul, ISAF Joint Command.
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