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Old 08-19-2010, 10:50 AM   #1
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Goodbye Iraq: Last US combat brigade heads home


From Yahoo News
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KHABARI CROSSING, Kuwait – A line of heavily armored American military vehicles, their headlights twinkling in the pre-dawn desert, lumbered past the barbed wire and metal gates marking the border between Iraq and Kuwait early Thursday and rolled into history.

For the troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism but lightened by the whoops and cheers of soldiers one step closer to going home. Seven years and five months after the U.S.-led invasion, the last American combat brigade was leaving Iraq, well ahead of President Barack Obama's Aug. 31 deadline for ending U.S. combat operations there.

___

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division was officially designated the last combat brigade to leave Iraq under Obama's plan to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31. Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana joined the troops on their final journey out of the country.

___

When 18-year-old Spc. Luke Dill first rolled into Iraq as part of the U.S. invasion, his Humvee was so vulnerable to bombs that the troops lined its floor with flak jackets.

Now 25 and a staff sergeant after two tours of duty, he rode out of Iraq this week in a Stryker, an eight-wheeled behemoth encrusted with armor and add-ons to ward off grenades and other projectiles.

"It's something I'm going to be proud of for the rest of my life — the fact that I came in on the initial push and now I'm leaving with the last of the combat units," he said.

He remembered three straight days of mortar attacks outside the city of Najaf in 2003, so noisy that after the firing ended, the silence kept him awake at night. He recalled the night skies over the northern city of Mosul being lit up by tracer bullets from almost every direction.


AP/Maya Alleruzzo

Now, waiting for him back in Olympia, Wash., is the Harley-Davidson he purchased from one of the motorcycle company's dealerships at U.S. bases in Iraq — a vivid illustration of how embedded the American presence has become since the invasion of March 20, 2003.

That presence is far from over. Scatterings of troops still await departure, and some 50,000 will stay another year in what is designated as a noncombat role. They will carry weapons to defend themselves and accompany Iraqi troops on missions (but only if asked). Special forces will continue to help Iraqis hunt for terrorists.

So the U.S. death toll — at least 4,415 by Pentagon count as of Wednesday — may not yet be final.

The Stryker brigade, based in Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state and named for the vehicle that delivers troops into and out of battle, has lost 34 troops in Iraq. It was at the forefront of many of the fiercest battles, including operations in eastern Baghdad and Diyala province, an epicenter of the insurgency, during "the surge" of 2007. It evacuated troops at the battle of Tarmiyah, an outpost where 28 out of 34 soldiers were wounded holding off insurgents.

The U.S. military kept a tight lid on security, restricting the media embedded with the U.S. troops from reporting on the brigade's movements until they were almost to the border.

The brigade's leadership volunteered to have half of its 4,000 soldiers depart overland instead of taking the traditional flight out, a decision that allowed the unit to keep 360 Strykers in the country for an extra three weeks. The remainder of the brigade flew out with the last of the troops slated to leave later Thursday.

U.S. commanders say it was the brigade's idea to drive out, not an order from on high. The intent was to keep additional firepower handy through the "period of angst" that followed Iraq's inconclusive March 7 election, said brigade chief, Col. John Norris.

It took months of preparation to move the troops and armor across more than 500 kilometers (300 miles) of desert highway through potentially hostile territory.

The Strykers left the Baghdad area in separate convoys over a four-day period, traveling at night because the U.S.-Iraq security pact — and security worries — limit troop movements by day.

Along the way, phalanxes of American military Humvees sat at overpasses, soldiers patrolled the highways for roadside bombs, and Apache attack helicopters circled overhead as the Strykers refueled alongside the highway.

Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gus McKinney, a brigade intelligence officer, acknowledged that moving the convoys overland put soldiers at risk, but said the danger was less than in past.

The biggest threat was roadside bombs planted by Shiite extremist groups who have a strong foothold in the south, McKinney said.

But except for camels straying into the road, and breakdowns that required some vehicles to be towed, there were no incidents. The last of the Strykers rolled across the border just before 4 a.m. Thursday into Kuwait, honking their horns and waving to the small crowd gathered at the crossing.

The brigade's leadership was on hand to greet the troops after they crossed the border and pulled into a parking lot where they shed their sweaty armor and stumbled out of their Strykers.

"This is powerful. This is exciting for me. As a commander, this means that all of my soldiers are safely inside of Kuwait and getting ready to redeploy back to their families," Norris told The Associated Press.

The worst of the ride was conditions inside the Strykers — sitting for hours in a cramped space — and the temperatures outside that reached 50 Celsius (120 Fahrenheit).

The driver's compartment is called the "hellhole" because it sits over the engine and becomes almost unbearably hot. The vehicle commander and gunner can sit up in hatches to see the outside world. At the tail end are hatches for two gunners. Eight passengers — an infantry squad in combat conditions — can squeeze in the back.

Riding as a passenger felt a bit like being in a World War II-era submarine — a tight fit and no windows. The air conditioning was switched off to save fuel on the long ride south to Kuwait. Men dozed or listened to music on earphones.

Once out of Iraq, there was still work to be done. Vehicles had to be stripped of ammunition and spare tires, and eventually washed and packed for shipment home.

Meanwhile, to the north, insurgents kept up a relentless campaign against the country's institutions and security forces, killing five Iraqi government employees in roadside bombings and other attacks Wednesday. Coming a day after a suicide bomber killed 61 army recruits in central Baghdad, the latest violence highlighted the shaky reality left by the departing U.S. combat force and five months of stalemate over forming Iraq's next government.

For Dill, who reached Kuwait with an earlier convoy, the withdrawal engendered feelings of relief. His mission — to get his squad safely out of Iraq — was accomplished.

Standing alongside a hulking Stryker, his shirt stained with sweat, he acknowledged the men who weren't there to experience the day with him.

"I know that to my brothers in arms who fought and died, this day would probably mean a lot, to finally see us getting out of here," he said.
This will inevitably turn political and get the lock, so I'll say this now.
THANK YOU to our serving men and women!
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:51 AM   #2
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:54 AM   #3
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:05 AM   #4
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Semantics, there are still approx. 50k boots on the ground there, and a large "civilian" force. Ok so maybe the Abrams and the Bradleys and some "attack" aircraft leave, (Infantry Units, Armor Units, and Field Artilllery Units), This will probably lock the thread maybe not, but I hope in the name of politics that we haven't left our forces there too lite, and we left enough "firepower" in place not to repeat lessons learned in Somalia of not having enough "armor/heavy forces" in place to get the "lite guys" out of a jam if we need to. I believe in the mission and would rather fight them there than here, but I want our guys to have the tools to get the job done and most of all protect themselves.
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:24 AM   #5
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good for you guys.and a big welcome home.
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:25 AM   #6
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Still a lot of shiz left to clean up over there, but it is great to see some of our people come home.
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Old 08-19-2010, 12:18 PM   #7
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I agree that's it's great to see people coming home. But without getting political (cus it's not intended to be)- my good friend is going through prep training to ship out September 18th to Iraq for a year. They're training for combat. They're taking their warfighting equipment. Hard to say they aren't a combat unit. My myopic vision sees some of this as being semantics as well. The troops, as always, have my support and I hope the next year proves pretty quiet for them.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:05 PM   #8
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I think this whole deadline business was just a big dog and pony show. Sure, a substantial amount of troops are leaving Iraq, but we'll never fully "leave" Iraq...at least, not for a while.

I agree with GSUNCSU, I hope our troops still stuck in Iraq have the equipment they need to do whatever it is they're supposed to be doing. There's nothing worse than all of the politicians and deadline makers spreading our troops too thin just so the politicos can tout some political stance from the safety of their house or office.

Do what ya gotta do and come home safe guys and gals!!!
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:06 PM   #9
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http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/tu...aq-war-is-over
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:09 PM   #10
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Welcome home brother. Hopefully you will never have to return..
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:11 PM   #11
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Big thanks to all the men and woman serving our country.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:18 PM   #12
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I just hope this doesn't turn out to be another Charlie Wilson's war.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:21 PM   #13
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Leaving Iraq for Afghanistan?

We need to get them all home.
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:23 PM   #14
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I can say for certain that the air force fighter planes and UAVs will be in Iraq for awhile
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Old 08-19-2010, 01:24 PM   #15
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Leaving Iraq for Afghanistan?

We need to get them all home.
no "****in up the end game"
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Old 08-19-2010, 04:32 PM   #16
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no "****in up the end game"
Let's try not to leave loose ends that the next generation is going to have to come back and clean up.
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:37 PM   #17
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Speaking as a two time Iraq Vet, I do not buy that it's over. In fact, from my old base, Ft. Hood, the 3rd Armor Cavalry Regiment is gearing up for a deployment to Iraq. There is also a large amount of contractors and mercenaries still there. It's all B.S. Plus Op Tempo is not slowing down one bit, they are just sending more Soldier to Afghanistan now.

I'm so glad I got out.
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:32 PM   #18
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The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (5000 Soldiers+) is preparing to leave as you read this and the 4th Brigade Combat Team (4000 Soldiers+) of the 1st Cavalry Division is going to Iraq in the next 30 days.

There are still 52,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in Iraq, and will be ther for the next 12-18 months....how many of them do you think serve a "noncombat" role?

There will be combat for Americans as long as there are Americans AND Arabs in Iraq.

Last edited by The_Blur; 08-19-2010 at 06:54 PM. Reason: politics
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:47 PM   #19
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He's right, if your in Iraq, it's combat.
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Old 08-19-2010, 06:50 PM   #20
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It is good to see some of our heroes headed home. We'll still be over there doing a lot of hard work, but the goal is to transfer the fighting to our friends who live there. I wish our serving men and women the best, and I also wish the best for our allies, the Iraqis.
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