Casing the Colors in Iraq

20111215 Casing the Colors

Lloyd James Austin III, commander, United States Forces-Iraq, and Command Sgt. Maj. Joseph R. Allen, case the USF-I Colors during a flag casing ceremony that marked the end of Operation New Dawn, at the former Sather Air Base, in Baghdad, Iraq, Dec. 15, 2011. Since 2003, more than 1 million Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines have served in Iraq. Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricard, U.S. Air Forces Central, Baghdad Media Outreach TeamGen.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey -- chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- were in Baghdad today to bring the mission in Iraq to its official end.

At Baghdad Airport, in a ceremony steeped in tradition and history, soldiers lowered and cased the U.S. flag in preparating for its return to the United States.

"This will be an historic moment where we basically enter a new chapter in Iraq in which we deal with them in a way that represents the kind of normal relationship we have with other countries," Secretary Panetta said.

The drawdown will continue through December 31.