Give credit to the soldiers of I Corps: They know how to arrive in style.
A C-17 Globemaster III aircraft landed on Gray Army Airfield at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Sunday afternoon. The 50 soldiers filed onto the flight line, uncased the unit colors and stood in formation by a nearby hangar. Families watched a live video feed inside and erupted as the doors opened.
The soldiers marched inside. The corps command attached the Iraq battle streamer. Speeches followed. Lt. Gen. Charles Jacoby, at times unable to contain a wide smile, at last turned to the formation and dismissed the soldiers.
With that, I Corps’ first official combat deployment since the Korean War came to an end.
“A year ago, you said farewell to us and we left on a difficult journey, all of us committed to this great effort,” Jacoby, the corps commander, said during a brief speech. “It was a worthy mission during a historical time.”
Based at the Al Faw Palace on Victory Base Complex in Baghdad, the corps of more than 900 soldiers ran daily American military operations throughout the country. Jacoby was the United States’ second-in-command in Iraq, serving under Gen. Raymond Odierno.
I Corps oversaw American operations during two of the most crucial events during Iraq’s post-invasion history: the removal of American combat troops from Iraqi cities and towns on June 30 and the parliamentary elections on March 7.
In a brief interview with reporters after the ceremony, both Jacoby and corps Command Sgt. Maj. Frank Grippe expressed optimism with the progress the country made in the past year – especially in light of the recent elections, which saw Iraqis defy the threat of violence and vote in large numbers.
“We’re definitely winning over there,” Grippe said. “We’re bringing peace and security to some wonderful people that haven’t had peace and security in quite some time.”
The corps worked with four other major Lewis-McChord units also deployed to Iraq: 17th Fires Brigade in Basra; the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Diyala; the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division in Baghdad; and the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade collecting and analyzing intelligence throughout the country.
I Corps originally deployed and served under the banner of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, the American military’s tactical command. But in a consolidation of the command structure on Jan. 1, it served under the name U.S. Forces-Iraq.
Back home, the corps’ home station also underwent a name change. Fort Lewis merged with McChord Air Force Base last month, creating Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
In a nod to the new setup, the 62nd Airlift Wing commander Col. Kevin Kilb piloted the C-17 from Baghdad to Lewis-McChord.
And changes are coming in the corps leadership: Jacoby, who has been commander since June 2007, will relinquish command near the end of the month. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last week nominated him to become the new director of the strategic plans and policy section on the Joint Staff in Washington, D.C.
If confirmed by the Senate, he will oversee a staff of 250 people examining geopolitical trends and threats and develops strategy and policy for the military’s top officials. He will answer to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“Nothing will compare to being a commanding general at I Corps,” Jacoby said. “I know my potential new boss, Adm. Mullen, wouldn’t mind me saying that. But nothing compares to this.”