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Army Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick has taken command of the mission to train Iraqi security forces.

In a ceremony on July 3 in Baghdad, Helmick formally assumed responsibility for overseeing the process that U.S. leaders have long acknowledged will be key to an eventual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and the NATO Training Mission-Iraq had been under the command of Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who will retire after 37 years in the service, officials said.

According to the military, the Iraqi military and police forces now have nearly 185 army, National Police and Special Operations Forces battalions amounting to some 550,000 people.

The role of MNSTC-I is to organize, train and equip Iraqi forces, a process that has faced several hurdles since the Iraqi army was formally disbanded by U.S. officials shortly after the invasion. The command was created in June 2004; one of the early leaders of the effort to train Iraqis was Gen. David Petraeus — then a two star, now commander of all U.S. troops in Iraq and soon to take over Central Command.

Prior to assuming command of MNSTC-I and NTM-I, Helmick was the commanding general of the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force, based in Vicenza, Italy.

Brig. Gen. William B. Garrett III took command of SETAF in late April.

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