MORE than 300 Australian Defence Force personnel are returning to Australia in time for Christmas after a six- month deployment on Operation OKRA in Iraq.
Task Group Taji 5 leaves Iraq having contributed to the development of the Iraqi Security Forces to restore security across the country.
Colonel Steven D’Arcy, the outgoing Task Group Commander, praised the efforts of Task Group 5, Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Security Forces for their achievements.
“I am incredibly proud of the men and women of Task Group Taji 5,” Colonel D’Arcy said.
“Their efforts have made a tangible difference in the fight against Daesh.
“The training Task Group Taji 5 delivered will allow the Iraqi Security Forces to continue their successful operations against Daesh.
“The progress of the Iraqi Security Forces, through some intense fighting, has been truly incredible.”
The training delivered by Task Group Taji 5 included tactics, techniques and procedures for company to brigade level operations, combat leadership and combined arms operations as part of the continued international effort to build the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces.
Colonel D’Arcy has handed over authority for the mission to the incoming Commander Task Group Taji 6, Colonel Robert Calhoun.
Colonel Calhoun said Task Group Taji 6 had taken on a great responsibility.
“Our responsibility is to maintain the great work of the previous rotations and, in particular, Task Group Taji 5, that enables the continued growth and development of the Iraqi Security Forces,” Colonel Calhoun said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Sunday congratulated Iraq for driving ISIS from its borders and ending a regime of terror, anguish and murder.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on Saturday his forces had rid the country of the extremist militia group.
“Their bravery in the face of unimaginable brutality has made the region and the world a safer place by robbing terrorists of their narrative of invincibility,” Mr Turnbull said in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Defence Minister Marise Payne on Sunday.
A ceremony on Wednesday, December 6 marked the formal transfer the authority of the mission to Task Group Taji 6, who have now commenced their six month rotation.
Since May 2015, the combined Australian-New Zealand Task Group has trained more than 28,000 Iraqi Security Forces personnel, including more than 4000 personnel trained by Task Group Taji 5.
More than 300 Australian and 100 New Zealand military personnel are deployed to Iraq on Operation OKRA as part of Task Group Taji 6.