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Friday, July 02, 2004

From Fred 

Yesterday, 1 July 2004, I attended the change of command ceremony for the Multi-National Force-Iraq. Lieutenant General (LTG) Ricardo Sanchez relinquished command to General Casey, who had been in Washington, DC, as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army.

The ceremony occurred in the middle of the main palace on Camp Victory. I stood on a set of marble stairs between the second and third floors looking down on the front podiums. General Abizaid, the Commander of Central Command, hosted the ceremony. Three US Senators were introduced; the new US Ambassador to Iraq was introduced as well as the Iraq Minister of Defense or the military head of the new Iraq Army. Each nation--there are 30 of them now--that is contributing forces to the coalition was represented in the formation of flags. This included the Iraq military.

The ceremony was a fairly standard change of command ceremony. Due to space constraints there was no inspection of the troops. There was the traditional passing of the unit colors from the senior noncommissioned officer to LTG Sanchez to GEN Abizaid to GEN Casey and back to the senior noncommissioned officer. This signifies the passing of command. All three generals made speeches.

At the conclusion of the ceremony GEN Abizaid and GEN Casey went into the formation of flags and pulled out the Iraqi soldier holding the Iraqi flag and brought him to the front of the formation. Both generals then saluted the Iraqi flag as a showing of respect for the flag of this new country--2 days old at the time--that the command had set conditions for the politicians to create. Afterwards I departed and went about my business elsewhere in the palace.

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