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Historic year for I Corps in Kabul comes to an end

ISAF Commander Gen. John R. Allen presents an award to Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti at the relinquishment ceremony at the end of a yearlong tour leading the IJC in Kabul, Afghanistan. Scaparrotti return to JBLM this week with his senior enlisted adviser, Com

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KABUL, Afghanistan - During the past three weeks, hundreds of Soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord have returned home.

Led by Lt. Gen. Mike Scaparrotti and Command Sgt. Maj. John Troxell, the Soldiers, members of Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, I Corps, spent a year leading more than 130,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines from NATO's 50-country International Security Assistance Force.

After leaving the South Puget Sound area June 13, 2011, the I Corps staff arrived in theater on orders to lead ISAF Joint Command located at North Kabul International Airport.

Built to be a bridge between the strategic vision of ISAF headquarters, currently led by Marine Gen. John Allen, and the tactical execution of the six regional commands, IJC, the operational-level command, was formed in October 2009.

During I Corps' time in command of IJC there were marked improvements in Afghan security and governance. Milestones included helping with Operation Naweed 1391 (Pashto for good news), the first Afghan security ministry-planned and -executed strategic operation, and the announcement of the third phase of Afghan security transition - giving security responsibility of more than 75 percent of the population to the Afghans over the next six months.

"If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people," Troxell said during a recent interview from his office at IJC headquarters, of the success that the I Corps command enjoyed.

Usually out visiting bases in the regional commands six days a week as Scaparrotti's "directed telescope," Troxell spent his time reinforcing the mission and reminding troopers, whether from other JBLM units, other U.S. services, or coalition countries, that they were in Afghanistan to deny safe havens and training grounds to extremists and to help Afghanistan secure its future.

"When Joe doesn't know what's going on, Joe thinks he's just waiting around to get blown up," Troxell said of his attempts to travel and check the pulse of the troops as much as he could.

Between them, Troxell and Scaparrotti conducted more than 620 key-leader engagements with international, NATO and senior US leadership and Afghan senior civilian and military personnel.

During a Monday video teleconference with the Pentagon Press Corps, Scaparrotti spoke of other significant advances the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Afghan National Security Forces made over the past year.

ISAF has long had a goal of having 352,000 ANSF trained by October 1. There are currently more than 346,000 members, and Scaparrotti was confident that the deadline will be met with much time to spare, allowing the mantra of "ANSF in the lead" to permeate further into all operations in the country.

In April, ANSF led more than 50 percent of all tactical operations, the highest number in the last 12 months, and a recent highlight in what has been a decade of improvement compared to a Taliban-led Afghanistan.

During ISAF's watch, five times the number of children are in Afghan schools, including more than 3 million girls; a Parliament is comprised of 27 percent women; 15.5 million mobile phone customers from six providers cover 80 percent of the population; and 85 percent of all Afghans have basic medical care within an hour of their homes. These are numbers that support that Afghanistan is on the right path, Scaparrotti said.

With only three dozen I Corps Soldiers remaining to fly home with them, Scaparrotti and Troxell relinquished command and responsibility of IJC Tuesday to Lt. Gen. James Terry, Command Sgt. Maj. William Johnson, and Germany's V Corps.

"It's been my honor to lead coalition forces here in Afghanistan once again for this year, " Scaparrotti said in a teleconference with the Pentagon Press Corps on the eve of the change of command. "I am constantly in awe of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and the coalition Soldiers' focus on this mission, their dedication to it, and the sacrifice they make to secure Afghanistan but - and just as important - to secure their own nations and our nation. Their sacrifice is great. Their confidence is inspiring."

While lauding the successes of his forward-deployed I Corps troops, Troxell also mentioned the success of those who held down the fort at home, including the Soldiers, family members and civilians at home.

"We left behind a very organized and functional rear (detachment) staff," he said. "Our ‘team of teams' is what made us successful here as well as back at JBLM."

Scaparrotti echoed his command sergeant major's thoughts while closing with the press at the Pentagon.

"I would thank the families of all these Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and our civilians at work here, because they serve as well, they sacrifice as well, and they give full support to those who are here doing this important mission. It's been my honor to be a part of their formation again this year."

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