CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq – With Operation New Dawn coming to an end, the Virginia Army National Guard exited Iraq in its final convoy out of here Friday.
"We were a convoy escort team," said Army Staff Sgt. Raymond Bunch, a convoy commander with Able Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment.
"We would pick up logistic supplies … and escort them from one base to another to their final destination."
Soldiers' equipment and vehicles were inspected and made ready for the final journey.
Able Troop prepared to leave the base and head south across the border into Kuwait, and start turning in all of our gear for our end of deployment, said Bunch.
The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles the unit will convoy out of the country in had been lined up just outside the Soldier living area.
"Our squadron was all housed here," Bunch said. "Our squadron tactical operation center was right across the road, and the main motor pool was behind there. That's why we've moved all the vehicles over here – to be closer to the containerized housing units and [to] get everything out."
The unit was scheduled to leave earlier, but stayed on after being tasked with a few last missions.
"Things got pushed along," said Bunch. "We ended up having to run a few more missions, and it seems like every time we thought we were running our last mission, they said, 'We need you to run one more.' And of course, the needs of the Army come first."
The convoys throughout the deployment were successful, although Soldiers had to learn new tasks and responsibilities for the mission.
"Able Troop itself is just a conglomeration of where they pulled a whole bunch of people from across the state to make this [mission] come together," Bunch said. "Military occupational specialties and people [who] aren't necessarily used to working together had to come together quick and learn a whole new role than what any of us were trained for. I think we did an excellent job in doing that."
This is the final mission preparation for Able Troop.
"Today is a culmination of everything we've done," said Army Cpl. Josh Brainard, a vehicle commander, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment here Friday. "Now, it's our final convoy to Kuwait, to leave today."
Essentially what they did to prepare for departure was like a regular mission preparation, Brainard said.
They had to inspect the vehicles, lay out medical equipment, organize their weapons cleaning kits, and everything else – safety gear, meals-ready-to-eat and water – to be inspected for this mission, he said.
All of this is ultimately for the trip home, for which many are ready for.
"I'm very, very excited," Brainard said. "My wife actually had our first child, so I'm really very anxious to get home."
The Soldiers are hopeful to be home before the holidays, Bunch said.
"Of course here at the end [the mission] is to get everybody out," he said. "And then today is the end for us. We're basically escorting ourselves out. Everybody's pumped and excited about that because we're done. We're getting ready to go home."