FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The transition in Fallujah continues.
Iraqi soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army Division assumed responsibility for the Fallujah Civil-Military Operations Center from Regimental Combat Team 5 Marines in downtown Fallujah Oct. 6.
“Today will help make Fallujah and Iraq more safe,” said Iraqi Capt. Lathe Hamab, a commander in 3rd Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 1st IA Division.
“The building itself is completely turned over to the Iraqi Army,” said 33-year-old Chief Warrant Officer 2 Josh Stone, the CMOC security officer from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “This is one step closer to turning the battlespace over to the Iraqi Army.”
The CMOC facility, which formerly housed a fitness center and school, has served in its current capacity as a government center since Operation Al Fajr, according to Capt. Jodie Sweezey, a 37-year-old team leader in the 4th Civil Affairs Group from Arlington, Va. The operation, planned and executed by the 1st Marine Division under the command of Maj. Gen Richard Natonski in 2004, resulted in the recovery of the city from insurgent elements who had taken refuge there.
The complex remains home to the mayor’s office and will continue to host the Fallujah City Council Meeting, which convenes on Tuesdays.
The civil services previously provided at the complex, however, will now be available at the Fallujah Development Center, located on the immediate outskirts of the city.
“The Fallujah Development Center will provide the Fallujan citizens a one-stop shop for all civil matters,” Stone said.
“It gives ownership back to their city,” said Sgt. Austin Moore, a 22-year-old sergeant-of-the-guard from Claxton, Tenn., who has served in the CMOC since August. “The more we give back to them the more they will take care of.”
Moore also noted the role the Marines played in preparing the Iraqi soldiers for the transfer of the CMOC.
“We trained them on how to take care of their soldiers,” he said. “I think it means a whole lot to them.”
“It’s starting the exchange and letting Iraqi Army take over their own country,” said Cpl. Joshua Carpenter, a 21-year-old from Dayton, Ohio, who served on the CMOC security team for the last month and a half. “This is a handful of Marines less we have to send out.”