“A really great man is known by three signs: generosity in the design, humanity in the execution, moderation in success” - Otto von Bismark Later the same day as our final convoy we had a distinguished visitor pay Camp Buehring a visit. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Dempsey, came to hold an informal meeting with Battalion and Brigade Command Teams of various United States Forces Iraq (USF-I) units. As expected, my CSM and I were summoned. Although the meeting was held at the DFAC around supper time, this was not a talk and eat event. The Chairman was on a tight schedule. Our conversation quickly turned to the logistics accomplishments of closing Iraq. GEN Dempsey was asking for feedback in a manner very similar to an After Action Review. With logistics under the spotlight, the bulk of the conversation was directed to the commander of the Theater Sustainment Brigade and me. I found the Chairman to be very intelligent, direct, and sincere. He seemed particularly interested in my battalion, its diverse composition, the dynamic mission we were assigned, and the multiple times we jumped TOC over the course of our deployment. He stopped me in the middle of one of my answers to his questions and said, “Well I’ve got one word for you to pass on to your Soldiers – HOOAH! And I better see an article written by you to tell everyone about this.” When the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs says something like that it is etched in stone. Moments later, his aide handed me a business card with scribble on the back. It was the suspense date for me to have the article written and into the CJS’s office. Unbelievable! I was the only commander to walk into that meeting only to leave with a homework assignment.
The following day, December 15, 2011, the official ceremony was held in Baghdad to signify the end of operations. The USF-I Colors were cased to close out over eight years of continuous combat operations. I was here for three of those years. I saw the beginning and was now here to not only see the end but be an active participant in the logistical effort that made it come about on time. At the same time the ceremony was taking place CSM and I were with yet another VIP. This time it was the Secretary of the Army, The Honorable John McHugh. Numerous General Officers accompanied Secretary McHugh. Unlike the meeting of the night before, this was simply an informal luncheon. There were no group discussions, no question and answer sessions, and no homework assignments thrown my way. We simply ate lunch and shook hands. I forgot my camera so we were unable to capture the moment. The ceremony in Baghdad was televised and many of us watched in somber silence. It is a very surreal time. I have been here so many times now that it is difficult to sink in that this is really the end. There are so many memories – both good and bad.
Although USF-I had cased colors and the war declared over, operations continued to get the last Soldiers out of Iraq. Our battalion still had a handful of Warriors at COB Adder performing the bulk fuel mission and running the cargo receiving and shipping point. They would be there until the base closed. Early on the morning of December 18, 2011 the last Soldiers of my battalion still serving in Iraq boarded helicopters and flew south to Kuwait. That same day the final convoy departed Adder and made its way out of Iraq. Although none of my Soldiers were on the last convoy across the border, equipment belonging to us was included and made the news in the various videos filmed of the last vehicles crossing Khubari in to Kuwait. The heavy material handling equipment (MHE) from the CRSP was loaded onto the final convoy out of Iraq. Even to the very end we had a presence. Then the waiting game started. Now we waited for our flight home.
The first of our remaining battalion to leave was the “Blue Devils” of 196th Transportation Company. They were quickly followed by the “Road Warriors” of 68th Transportation Company. In rapid succession, the “Road Masters” of 89th Transportation Company, “Deuce Train” of 372nd Inland Cargo Transportation Company, and “No Slack” of 305th Quartermaster Company all departed. Our higher command, 310th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, cased their colors and left. Then even USF-I popped smoke and went home. Our battalion was now the largest remaining unit of USF-I. Now it’s just my HHC and HQ staff waiting for our flight home. The time slowly ticks by. It is a tough wait. I won’t deny that it is frustrating. But it is comforting to know that we will be back in the United States in time for Christmas.