OIF Update, Dec. 15, 2009: 5 US Command Groups in Iraq to Merge as USF-I
Dispatches from the Front:
BAGHDAD, Dec. 15, 2009 -- A new era in Operation Iraqi Freedom will begin Jan. 1, 2010, when the combining of five different U.S. command groups here into one single headquarters will be complete.
Charles A. Musante, Multi-National Corps - Iraq strength management chief, said the new United States Force – Iraq headquarters will oversee all operations throughout Iraq.
"It combines the three major commands here, Multi-National Force - Iraq, Multi National Corps - Iraq and Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq, into one single command underneath the four star commander," Musante said.
"USF-I is a result of a success and evolution of our mission here in Iraq, it's a natural step," Brig. Gen. Peter C. Bayer, chief of staff, Multi-National Corps - Iraq, said. "If we do it right, our subordinates get the same level of support without even realizing a change has occurred."
The merger will accomplish different purposes once fully operational, one being streamlining.
"This is the headquarters drawdown," Musante said. "We are streamlining in line with the rest of the other units. By merging redundant positions we will streamline operations which in turn will reduce the total number of people that are required to fill these positions."
With multiple headquarters in Iraq, there has been a high demand placed on the services for individual augmentees.
"We should be mirroring the units on the ground in their effort to reduce their footprint," Musante said. "Our charge is to reduce and create a reduction."
During the planning process of the merger, the command came up with a reduction of 41 percent in requirements once USF-I is fully operational.
"This is significant because it saves the services and allows them to utilize their people in other places that may need them," Musante said.
In planning for the merger, there have been a few challenges that the command and control transition team, the C2T Tiger Team, has faced.
"This process is not easy, it has never been done before," Musante said. "Merging and restructuring in peace time is difficult, but we are trying to do it transparent and in a warzone while trying to maintain current operations with a lot of challenges coming up here with the elections."
Musante went on to say that the biggest challenge for him has been the personnel piece of the transition.
"Making sure we have a good accountability for where everyone is situated, what we are doing to make sure we have the right people in the right position and then doing all that coordinating with the services to make sure they are in line with all of that," he said.
Another challenge that has been difficult is trying to bring three separate distinct commands together.
"It was difficult to get people on board," U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Jurgen W. Smith, C2T Tiger Team strategic planner, said. "People naturally want to keep doing things the way they have been; three hardest elements where the large ones," Smith said, referring to the three main elements, Corps, Force and Security Transition Command.
The command and control transition team focused on the easier elements to transition first.
"We have got what I consider some of the easier mergers done," Smith said. "We are getting into a period where some of the harder mergers are going to be happening, like the J3, operations. Theirs is going to be a little more challenging because they have to continue operations throughout Iraq and it is rather difficult to do that with so much going on."
Bayer said a critical aspect to merging five major commands is maintaining and continuing to grow the U.S. forces' partnership and relationship with Iraq. The Combined Partnership Operations Center will continue to be resourced as will the continued partnering between Iraqi Ground Forces Command and MNC-I.
"The level and amount of energy we put into partnering with them [Iraqi Security Forces] will remain the same," he said. "It's about creating conditions for a long term, enduring, positive relationship between our nations, forged by our day to day interactions with them."
(Report from a 114th Public Affairs Detachment news release.)