For much of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF–I), was the military command responsible for conducting operations that, over the course of its existence, was led by the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland. It’s leaders and soldiers represented honorably the nations they represented while serving often in austere conditions and will forever mark the point where Iraqi turned from the dark days of a post-Saddam nation into one lead by Coalition Forces towards freedom.
Multi-National Forces – Iraq
Replacing Combined Joint Task Force 7 on May 15th, 2004 as the mission in Iraq transition from one of military operations to stability, MNF-I itself would later be replaced by its successor, United States Forces – Iraq on January 1st, 2010 and mark the lifespan of the command. MNF-I objectives, as of June 2004 and expressed in UNSCR 1546, a letter from U.S. Secretary of State Powell to the U.N. Security Council was stated,
The MNF under unified command is prepared to continue to contribute to the maintenance of security in Iraq, including by preventing and deterring terrorism and protecting the territory of Iraq. The goal of the MNF will be to help the Iraqi people to complete the political transition and will permit the United Nations and the international community to work to facilitate Iraq’s reconstruction. (United Nations Security Council)
In November 2006, the United Nations Security Council voted to extend the mandate of the multinational force in Iraq until the end of 2007. The move was requested by the Iraqi government, which said the troops were needed for another year while it built up its own security forces. In December 2007, the Security Council unanimously approved resolution 1790, which extended the mandate until December 31, 2008. Later in January 2010 the three commands of MNF-I, Multi-National Corps – Iraq, and Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq were merged into the United States Forces – Iraq under Operation NEW DAWN.
Over the course of its authority, MNF-I was significantly reinforced as part of the Iraqi “surge” in 2007 but then gradually drawn down until the last remaining US ground forces departed Iraq on December 18th, 2011 and marks the end to the Iraq War. Commanding Generals of the MNF-I command represented some of the US leading military minds needed to deal with the complexity if Iraq’s security and reconstruction efforts;
- Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, May 15, 2004 – June 4, 2004
- General George W. Casey, Jr. June 4, 2004 – February 10, 2007
- General David H. Petraeus, February 10, 2007 – September 16, 2008
- General Raymond Odierno, September 16, 2008 – January 1, 2010
General David H. Petraeus
With him, as MNF-I Commander between 2007 and 2008 GEN Petraeus brought a wealth of knowledge and experience from his previous commands in Iraq 2003 as the 101st Division (AIR ASSAULT) Commanding General, and then commander of Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq in 2004. Perhaps it was no coincidence that prior to his arrivals in Iraq or Afghanistan, GEN Petraeus also oversaw the revalidation of FM-3-24 (The military’s vastly outdated manual on counterinsurgency operations). GEN Petraeus would go on from MNF-I and attain the Commanding General of International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan until his retirement from active duty on July 18, 2011. Shortly thereafter GEN Petraeus (Ret.) was nominated by President Barack Obama to be the new Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, replacing Leon Panetta. Unanimously confirmed, GEN Petraeus (Ret.) was sworn in as the current Director of the CIA on September 6, 2011.
The MNF-I Commander’s Challenge Coin underwent a number of variations between individuals, and while GEN Petraeus utilized his personal four-star general’s challenge coin while in Iraq, as MNF-I Commander he also presented a number of soldiers with his Commander’s Coin as well. Measuring approximately 2.5” x 3” the overall MFN-I Commander’s Challenge Coin for GEN Pretraeus is meant to resemble the command’s unit crest in a 3-D antique brass minting using few colors and resembling a shield.
The Obverse features the MNF-I crest whereupon centered is a gold human-headed winged bull of Mesopotamia that recalls the rich heritage of Iraq and underscores strength and protection for the people, according to the Military Institute of Heraldry. (The Institute of Heraldry) Behind which are two crossed silver scimitars points down, superimposed at the base by a wreath of palm and joined at the bottom with three loops of twine. The scimitars recall the partnership between Multinational Forces and Iraqi Security Forces essential to bringing a democratic way of life to Iraq while the palm fronds represent the peace and prosperity for a new Iraq. At the top of the Obverse is a golden seven-pointed star representing a vision of unity for the seven peoples of Iraq (Sunni, Shia, Kurd, Turkoman, Assyrian, Yazidi, Armenian) leading to a more secure, prosperous and free future for Iraqis.
On the coin’s Reverse and centered is the raised, and epoxy coated silhouette of Iraq with the national colors of red, white and black (colors taken from the Arab Liberation Flag that has represented Iraq since 1963). Also inside the national colors against the white band is the Takbir (the Arabic prayer translated as “God is Great”). At the time of the coin’s design in 2007 (when GEN Petreaus assumed command of MNF-I) the Iraqi flag appeared with three green five-pointed stars centered between the Takbir, however in 2008 the Iraqi Parliament elected to drop those features from the national flag. The Reverse’s field is unchanged and remains the same antique brass background from the Obverse. In scrolling text above, and centered, of the Iraqi representation is written “For Excellence in Combat” while below appears “Commanding General” designating the official representative for this challenge coin. Four five-pointed stars represent the rank of GEN Petraeus as MNF-I Commander, under the textual representative rank, and thereby associating the coin closely to GEN Petraeus and his time in theatre.
Alternates in Design
One alternate in the MNF-I coin has been validated to correspond to General Raymond Odierno’s Challenge Coin in 2008. It represents the unique values of the Commander, and continues many of the designs and traditions of the MNF-I Command itself. There is also a Command Sergeant Major’s version that has all of the same features however has the senior enlisted rank on the reverse.
The Institute of Heraldry. “US Army Element, Multi-National Force Iraq.” 7 January 2005. The Institute of Heraldry. 24 January 2014 <http://www.tioh.hqda.pentagon.mil/Catalog/Heraldry.aspx?HeraldryId=5241&CategoryId=2995&grp=2&menu=Uniformed%20Services&ps=24&p=0&hilite=Multi%20National%20Forces>.
United Nations Security Council. “SC/8117.” 6 August 2004. United Nations Press Center. 24 January 2014 <http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/sc8117.doc.htm>.
Contributions provided by LTC Donn H. Hill, Former 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Commander 2010-2011 US Army.