By Staff Sgt. Tanya ThomasMay 23, 2011
AL ANBAR, Iraq, May 23, 2011 -- Soldiers of the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, have begun their departure home to Fort Stewart, Ga. As their deployment comes to a close, so do the three U.S. military installations they occupied during their year-long tour.
The base closures are part of the current plan to remove American forces from the country by the end of this year, officials said.
Members of the 28th Brigade, 7th Iraqi Army Division signed for Camp Khalid, May 8, 2011, and former U.S. tenants with D Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div. departed and joined the rest of their team at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq.
On May 12, 2011, 80 Soldiers with C Company, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, 4th AAB, 3rd Inf. Div. rolled out of Camp Tariq, after the 2nd Brigade, 1st IA Quick Reaction Force Division signed for the compound.
Infantry Soldiers who've spent the past 11 months at the small outpost say its closure was bittersweet.
"We've built this place up since we arrived here," said Staff Sgt. Nacoma Williamson, a squad leader with C Co., explaining that his Soldiers constructed fighting positions, a gym, an entry control point, a stage, and set up defensive barriers upon their arrival in July 2010. "But we also came here to help (the Iraqi Army), and I feel that we've successfully done that."
Williamson and Staff Sgt. Jonathan Mrnak said that during its deployment, C Company, 3rd Bn., 15th Inf. Regt. was tasked with teaching basic soldier skills to Iraqi Army members.
"We brought them to the range, showed them how to shoot, taught them things like ambush techniques, patrols, team movement, security and vehicle searches - on a weekly basis," said Mrnak. "They (now) understand checkpoint (operations). They know how to zero their weapons, among other things. It seems like they've learned a lot from us. They put their own spin on things, but they are ready to do this job on their own."
Williamson, who deployed to the Al Anbar province during the Iraq invasion in 2003, said that much has changed over the past eight years and that base handovers, like Camp Tariq, are noted successes for the both the United States and the Government of Iraq.
"Think about how awesome it is to change an entire country," he said. "I know America wants us to come back home, but we're here to help make a change for this country, and now, we can say we have."
The C Co. Soldiers moved to Camp Fallujah, where they will finish out the remainder of their deployment.
Soldiers from B Company, 3rd Bn.,15th Inf. Regt. transferred Camp Taqaddum May 16, 2011, to Iraqi Army soldiers of the 8th Brigade, 1st IA Div.
"This is all part of the future of re-posturing in Iraq," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Shoemaker, commander of 3rd Bn, 15th Inf. Regt., who was on hand to witness the milestone at Taqaddum. "But, we're not saying good bye. This is not the end of our partnership or our friendship (with the IA)."
Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Barnes, the battalion sergeant major of 3rd Bn., 15th Inf. Regt., told his Soldiers they have contributed to their nation's history and helped with the development of Iraq.
"This is all because of your hard work and efforts," he said. "You can all be proud."