Iraq — Last Full Combat Brigade Leaves Iraq in Convoy

CAMP TAJI, Iraq, Aug. 19, 2010 — Through the dusty driver’s side win­dow, Army Pfc. Thomas John­son could see the final stretch of dirt road lead­ing to the bor­der.

Stryker armored vehicles with the 2nd Infantry Division's 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team
Stryk­er armored vehi­cles with the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Team line up at a fuel­ing site at Camp Taji, Iraq, Aug. 17, 2010, to receive fuel before head­ing out on a two-day mis­sion to leave Iraq through Kuwait.
U.S. Army pho­to by Pfc. Kim­ber­ly Hack­barth
Click to enlarge

As one of the lead ele­ments in a com­pa­ny-size for­ma­tion of Stryk­er armored vehi­cles, John­son and Army Spc. Adam Porter -— both com­bat engi­neers with 38th Engi­neer Com­pa­ny, attached to the 2nd Infantry Division’s 4th Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Team — had dri­ven col­lec­tive­ly more than 400 miles on the unruly and some­times dead­ly roads from here to Kuwait in a mine-resis­tant, ambush-pro­tect­ed vehi­cle.

Sol­diers of the 4th Stryk­er Brigade Com­bat Team have just com­plet­ed a year­long tour sup­port­ing the U.S. Divi­sion Cen­ter area of oper­a­tions in and around Bagh­dad, assist­ing, train­ing and advis­ing the Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces.

As a mem­oir of the last full com­bat brigade in Iraq dur­ing Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, which comes to a close at the end of the month, the rest of the crew said their final good­byes to Iraq into their dig­i­tal cam­eras before enter­ing Kuwait and end­ing their final deploy­ment to Iraq.

The team of com­bat engi­neers helped to clear the way for the sym­bol­ic con­voy out of Iraq, rem­i­nis­cent of U.S. forces first push­ing into Iraq at the begin­ning of Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom, dri­ving down a route sim­i­lar to the one ser­vice­mem­bers entered the coun­try through in 2003.

The brigade’s depar­ture leaves 56,000 U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers in Iraq. When Oper­a­tion Iraqi Free­dom ends Aug. 31 and the civil­ian-led Oper­a­tion New Dawn begins Sept. 1, that num­ber will be down to 50,000. That’s when the U.S. mil­i­tary mis­sion in Iraq offi­cial­ly changes from com­bat to an “advise and assist” capac­i­ty, com­plet­ing a tran­si­tion that has long been under way.

Most of the Stryk­er brigade sol­diers, includ­ing John­son and Porter, said they did not expect to leave Iraq behind a steer­ing wheel, dri­ving to Kuwait.

“I thought we’d fly out of here,” Porter said.

But the mode of exit did­n’t mat­ter to the sol­diers, as long as it meant they were return­ing home soon.

While peo­ple in the back of Stryk­ers and MRAPs had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to nap dur­ing the two-day trip, the gun­ners, dri­vers and vehi­cle com­man­ders stayed awake, focused and alert to their sur­round­ings. Ener­gy drinks, day­time naps and casu­al con­ver­sa­tions among crew mem­bers kept the weary dri­vers going.

“I was think­ing about doing my job pro­fi­cient­ly and get­ting every­body there safe­ly. If I don’t get every­one there safe­ly, then we fail the mis­sion. And I’m all about com­plet­ing the mis­sion,” said John­son, men­tion­ing that part of his mis­sion was return­ing home to his wife.

The team made it with­out hav­ing to deal with any attacks, a major improve­ment from vet­er­an com­bat engi­neers’ expe­ri­ences dur­ing ear­li­er rota­tions. Because secu­ri­ty has improved over time as Iraq has become more sta­ble, cer­tain aspects of lat­er deploy­ment cycles have changed as well.

“Yeah, we trained to kick in doors, we trained to clear build­ings, we trained to react to con­tact, but every sin­gle one of us knew what we were going to be doing — rid­ing in a truck look­ing for [road­side bombs],” Porter said.

For John­son, a Phoenix native, and Porter, from Ash­land, Wis., train­ing for dri­ving the Buf­fa­lo-style MRAP — a large vehi­cle with a mechan­i­cal arm for check­ing poten­tial threats — began dur­ing the brigade’s June rota­tion at the Joint Readi­ness Train­ing Cen­ter at Fort Polk, La. Sol­diers trained on a 5‑ton truck frame with a Buf­fa­lo cab weld­ed onto it. It was not until arriv­ing in Iraq they had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to get behind the wheel of the real thing.

A year lat­er, as John­son drove his team past the gates lead­ing to Kuwait and con­clud­ing their last patrol in Iraq, he said he felt a long-await­ed feel­ing.

“It’s a feel­ing of suc­cess that you did what you were expect­ed to do for a whole entire year, then com­ing to the end of your tour and fin­ish­ing it out strong,” he said.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →