On Dec. 18, the last remaining American Soldiers departed Iraq, bringing the almost nine-year conflict to a close. Col. David W. Carey, Task Force Normandy commander, led the last combat aviation brigade in Iraq and was aboard the final helicopter to cross the border into Kuwait.
"It was a surreal feeling," said Carey. "Some of my Soldiers were in elementary school when the war started in 2003, and now we we're making history together as we end this mission and transition to our next one."
The brigade's new mission, working under U.S. Army Central Command, is to combine training and partnership-building activities with other countries in the region to develop and maintain security and stability.
Many of the brigade's Army National Guard Soldiers are accustomed to a variety of domestic and international missions, which take advantage of both their civilian skills and military specialties.
As part of the Maryland National Guard, members of the brigade's Headquarters and Headquarters Co. have conducted peacetime partnership-building missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Estonia under the auspices of the National Guard's State Partnership Program.
In addition, National Guard Soldiers are trained to respond to emergencies, such as natural disasters in the U.S., while continually preparing for combat missions.
The Pentagon mobilized the 29th Combat Aviation Brigade in August 2011.
The brigade is comprised of units from approximately 25 states and territories. It controls more than 200 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.
The brigade is expected to complete its new mission in Kuwait this summer.