AL RAMADI, Iraq - Camp Ramadi was signed over to the Iraq government in a memorandum of agreement signed by Iraqi army and U.S. military officials at Camp Ali, Iraq, Jan. 20.
Camp Ali, which is a segment of Camp Ramadi occupied by the Iraqi army, is located about 70 miles west of Baghdad in Ar Ramadi, the provincial capital of the Al Anbar province.
The MOA was signed by Staff Brig. Gen. Adel, the commander of the First Quick Reaction Force Brigade, Iraqi army, headquartered at Camp Ali, and U.S. Army Col. Ronald Kapral, the commander of Camp Ramadi and the 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard.
The memorandum was a tenant agreement of sorts. It outlined the areas that will be used by coalition forces through 2011.
The signing over of Camp Ramadi is a step toward coalition forces pulling out and handing complete responsibility and control back over to the Iraqis.
"Signing over of Ramadi is more symbolism than it is an actual event," said Kapral. "It shows that the U.S. military and the coalition forces are starting to prepare to turn over and demilitarize the bases that we have been using for the past five years. If you look at what has been done in the past five years, the Iraqi army has started taking responsibility for their actions. They're starting to support themselves.
"They are proving training we have given them over the past three years is starting to pay off. The Iraqi army wants to take charge of their country, wants their bases and wants to provide the security for the people of Iraq that they have been lacking up until we came in and started a democracy in Iraq."
Al Ramadi was a center of Sunni insurgent resistance in the years following the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The area is now better known as one of Iraq's biggest success stories.
Coalition forces took possession of Camp Ramadi, formerly known as Camp Junction City, in 2003 shortly after the ground offensive. Since the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Ar Ramadi has had a handful of bases occupied by coalition forces returned to the Iraq government.
Camp Ramadi is now one of the last coalition-only bases left in the Al Ramadi area.
Although the signing marks a big step for the Iraqi government and leaders of coalition forces, the majority of the troops stationed on Camp Ramadi will notice little change, if any.
"For those of us who physically live on Camp Ramadi, it really doesn't change the normal day-to-day operations. What it does mean, from a long-term perspective, is that coalition forces are giving back the bases and land to the Iraqis, due to their sovereignty," said Lt. Col. Kevin McMahan, the Camp Ramadi operations officer.
Force protection measures will not be changed. All camp improvement projects will continue. Iraqis will take a look at the buildings on Camp Ramadi to see if it is something they want to keep. The physical structures built on camp Ramadi will either be prepared to be handed over in 2011 or torn down. Part of the agreement is for coalition forces to put the base back to the way they found it.
The Iraqi army and the Iraqi police have been taking control much more, as coalition forces have been stepping into the background.
"From my personal opinion, it is the beginning of the end. We are posturing to give back bases to the Iraqis. This will allow us to take a more supportive role," said McMahan.