Troops celebrate final Anzac Day in Iraq

Troops celebrate final Anzac Day in Iraq

Commander of the Australian Overwatch Battlegroup, based at Tallil in Dhi Qar Province, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Websdane said the Australians' mission had been a success.


“We have seen the responsibility for security transferred from the coalition forces to the Iraqi security forces. They have had some challenges along the way but we have been here to support them. And during this process we have also seen a gradual improvement in the security environment,” he told ABC radio.

Lt Col Websdane said the soldiers were now keen to go home.

“We all miss our families and miss Australia. We were obviously very keen to complete our mission and serve the full tenure and we have done that,” he said.

“All of my soldiers are very keen to ensure that we have given 200 per cent and that we can hand over the responsibilities we currently perform to the American battalion that is replacing us in June.”

The group is set to withdraw on June 28 in fulfillment of an election promise made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Lt Col Websdane said Anzac Day in southern Iraq would start today with a dawn service, followed by a traditional breakfast with fellow coalition members. This afternoon Australian and British troops play the final round of the Desert Ashes Cricket series.

Australian troops will also receive a modest beer ration.

Australian forces in southern Iraq have lost no personnel to enemy action.

But those in southern Iraq will remember those killed in Afghanistan, particularly Trooper David Pearce, who was a member of the Brisbane-based 2/14 Light Horse Regiment now serving in Iraq.

Lt Col Websdane said the Australians' mission for the past two years had been to support the transition of security in Al Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces from the coalition to Iraqi authorities.

“They have demonstrated in the last couple of weeks that they have the capacity to take on security challenges themselves,” he said.

Lt Col Websdane since late last year there had been significant changes in the security environment.

“In the past six weeks we have essentially seen no attack on coalition forces through either indirect fire or improvised explosive devices,” he said.