CONTINGENCY OPERATING BASE ADDER, Iraq (Army News Service, Dec. 5, 2011) -- With Operation New Dawn coming to a close, the Virginia Army National Guard left Iraq in its final convoy, Dec. 2.

"We were a convoy escort team," said Staff Sgt. Raymond Bunch, convoy commander, Able Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment, Virginia Army National Guard. "We would pick up logistic supplies and escort them from one base to another to their final destination."

Able Troop's last convoy took them out of Iraq, via a southbound route into Kuwait. There, they turned in their gear -- one of the last things they would do on their deployment.

Before their departure, each Soldier's personal equipment was prepared for that last convoy, and the vehicles were inspected and ready for their final journey. The mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles, or MRAPs, the unit used to convoy out of the country were lined up just outside the Soldier living area.

"Our squadron was all housed here," said Bunch. "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 get everything out."

The unit had experienced a slow start getting out of Adder due to some additional missions they were asked to complete.

"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 they ran throughout their Iraqi deployment were successful, Bunch said, even though 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," said Bunch. "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, and I think we did an excellent job in doing that."

Leaving Iraq is "a culmination of everything we've done," said Cpl. Josh Brainard, vehicle commander, Able Troop, 2nd Squadron, 183rd Cav. He said the last mission is nearly the same as every other in terms of preparation.

"We have to inspect the vehicles, lay out our medical equipment, our weapons cleaning kits, safety gear, meals, ready-to-eat and water, everything to be inspected for this mission," he said. "Then get everything strapped down and get ready to go."

The captain said he's "very, very excited," to get home.

"My wife actually had our first child, so I'm really very anxious to get home," he said.

The Soldiers are hopeful to be home before the holidays, said Bunch.

"Of course here at the end [the mission] is to get everybody out," said Bunch. "Everybody's pumped and excited about that because we're done. We're getting ready to go home."