N.C. Guard Soldiers cross into military history
December 26, 2011
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait (Dec. 26, 2011) -- In the early morning hours of Dec. 18, while most service members stationed here were sleeping, a small group of Soldiers from the North Carolina Army National Guard's 1452nd Transportation Company, from Winston-Salem, were busy making history.
"It was just surreal," said Sgt. Alan DuBois. "I was actually on the very last mission out of Iraq."
DuBois and 15 other Soldiers were part of the final convoy to leave Iraq, closing the gate on a conflict that has lasted almost nine years.
"All I could think of when I crossed that border was about my wife, who is due in March," said DuBois. "I kept thinking about my unborn daughter, how when she goes to school, she'll read about this and know that her daddy was a part of it."
For many Soldiers of the 1452nd, the road from Iraq to Kuwait is a familiar one. This is the second time the unit has been mobilized for combat. The unit deployed from 2004 to 2005 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II, earning more than 250 Army Commendation Medals and 30 Bronze Star Medals.
One of the Soldiers who knew this exact route, thanks to the previous deployment, is Sgt. 1st Class Antuane L. Simmons.
"I'm so thankful that we made it through two tours," said Simmons. "Being on the last convoy was important to me because it means that we made sure that all of our brothers and sisters in uniform made it safely back home."
The Soldiers have been conducting numerous convoys between Iraq and Kuwait to assist and support Operation New Dawn and the responsible drawdown of forces in Iraq since the unit arrived in Kuwait in September.
"Everything we did on this last convoy, down to the smallest things like locking doors or pressing the gas pedal down -- it was the last time we'll be doing it in Iraq," said Pfc. Jordan Miller.
"When we left [Contingency Operating Base] Adder, I looked in the side mirrors. Where there would normally be Soldiers and lights, there was nothing," said Miller. "When we reached K-Crossing [the Khabari Al Awazem Crossing], it wasn't a transition point. It was now the site for a conclusion."
When Sgt. Schjuana Suggs passed through K-Crossing, she couldn't help but feel as though a major chapter in her military career had just closed.
"I raised my right hand for the first time at the Brooklyn, New York MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) on September 11, 2001," said Suggs. "After I enlisted, I went to a holding room where I saw the planes crash into the twin towers on TV."
"My first deployment in Iraq was scary, but I loved serving my country. I'm happy to be one of the ones closing Iraq. It's definitely an accomplishment for me," she said.
Sgt. Daniel SaintSing graduated high school in 2003, at the beginning of the war in Iraq. For SaintSing, Iraq has been a war zone for most of his adult life.
"It'll be interesting to see how this changes things back home," he said. "I'm so proud to have been a part of this historic crossing."
The 16 Soldiers admit that they now have a unique bond, and will never forget the experience of representing the state of North Carolina in the last convoy. The Soldiers have safely returned to their main base here, anxiously awaiting their next mission.
"But right now, I'm just tired and hungry," said SaintSing. "That is one long drive."