CAMP TAJI, Iraq - The sound of heavy steel treads clanking and the rumble of powerful diesel engines fill the air at the Four Corners staging area at Camp Taji.

The noise from the heavy artillery pieces means the vehicles are on the move - not on a combat mission - but on the way south, to Kuwait.

Artillery Soldiers of B Battery, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, busily prepared tracked-ammunition carriers, here, Oct. 19, for inspection and shipment back to Fort Hood following the implementation of the Security Agreement.

The artillerymen drove ammunition carriers, which looked like howitzers without cannons, and carefully parked them in single file lines alongside M1A2 Abrams tanks and M3A3 Bradley armored personnel carriers. Soldiers have disarmed the vehicles and removed all sensitive electronic and radio equipment.

"The whole process with the vehicle turn-in is to help...when we move everything back a little easier," said Staff Sgt. James Lacapra of Sandy, Ore. "It shows we are slowly moving equipment out and our [operation] tempo is slowing down."

After parking the heavy vehicles, the artillerymen performed final checks for fluid leaks and cleanliness. Civilian inspectors followed up to make sure the ammo carriers were ready to be shipped to Kuwait, where they would be washed once more and placed on ships bound for the United States.

"Obviously, on the outside you see dirt, but they get another spraying in Kuwait. That's why they're inspected here and put in line," said Lacapra, an intelligence analyst assigned to 1st Bn., 82nd FA Regt., 1st BCT, 1st Cav. Div. "We basically get hold of what's dirty and what has to be fixed before they can go home."

Once the vehicles are back at Fort Hood, Texas, home station for the 1st Cavalry Division, they will be reset and refitted, according to Lacapra.

"They're going back to Fort Hood, where they will be turned in and reset," said Lacapra. "If there is any new technology updates and mechanical updates, that's where the civilian companies update it."

Even though the vehicles will soon be out of the regiment's hands, it did not mean the artillerymen preparing them for shipment took any shortcuts in safety. As they moved hundreds of tons of equipment, they could not afford to be careless.

"Safety is our number one priority here," said Lacapra. "When we're moving the vehicles, we have a ground guide to watch all angles of the vehicles to make sure no personnel are in the direction of the vehicle."

If the artillerymen had a spring in their step and a smile on their faces as they worked, it was no coincidence that preparing artillery vehicles for shipment also meant they are closer to going home.

"It's a good thing; I think it's a morale booster," said Lacapra. "It shows we're towards the end, we're on the down slope."

The steel sentinels moved one last time on their own power, their heavy tracks grinding the gravel and shaking the ground underneath them. After they are shipped home, only the tracks left behind on Camp Taji will remind everyone of the peace they helped build in Iraq.

Page last updated Tue October 20th, 2009 at 15:26