“I’ll be Home for Christmas” is the new theme song of troops in Iraq – DoD Blogger Roundtable

The last division in Iraq should be home for Christmas!  That is the goal of military leaders.  After almost nine years of war in Iraq, the less than 20,000 troops still there are getting on planes and heading home – the 25th Infantry Division based in Hawaii is the last major unit in Iraq and as the New Dawn stage of the war prepares to transition the last 7 bases to Iraq (6) and Department of State (1) control.   A new relationship is beginning with the New Year! 
U.S. Army Brig General Bradley Becker said a plane full of the division’s troops landed in Hawaii last night.  The pace has been hectic – more than 39,000 troops were in country as of October 24th, less than a month ago.  At the height of the surge in 2007/2008 there were 165,000 service members in Iraq on 505 bases.  The pace picked up when the President announced that the U.S. and Iraq had agreed on a final withdrawal of all troops.
This was the last DoD Blogger Roundtable session from Iraq!  A big shout to the Defense Media/DoDLive folks for keeping the bloggers engaged with the commanders and leadership in Iraq.
BG Bradley Becker – See belowWas the war worth it?  The history books will be written with many different perspectives but BG Becker said that we have “given Iraqi people opportunities they did not have” under the Saddam regime.   How they use those freedoms and opportunities is now up to them and he felt that their security forces were up to the task.  He expects a spike of attacks from Al Qaeda, Iranian backed groups and other terrorists after the U.S. leaves.  He explained that the Iraqis have had the lead since 2009 and their forces are capable of meeting the confrontations and protecting the country. 
A welcome home in Hawaii – See BelowWhile the Iraqi security forces have been trained by the U.S., they still struggle with logistics issues according to Becker.  Getting the right part for military equipment from the depot storage areas to the mechanics is still a challenge for them.  In fact, he said logistics “has a long ways to go”.  When queried about lessons learned during the drawdown that will help U.S. forces he mentioned to get our arms around the contractor piece of the equipment.  The withdrawal of contract personnel and equipment while closing bases was apparently quite a challenge. 
The general closed with “soldiers have done a wonderful job” and while I am sure he meant all the service personnel, it has certainly been a roller coaster of emotions, pride and stick to it toughness for Americans!  Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to the troops on their way home and Godspeed!   

If you would like to see earlier blogs on Iraq, we have a series for you on Our Letters to You. A Military Family Blog.  To read more from the President and others about the new relationship with Iraq go to our Reading Room articles.  To listen to an audio transcript of this last Roundtable from Iraq please go to DoDLive.

Photo Credit  MilitaryAvenue

Photo Credit Brigadier General Bradley A. Becker, U.S. Army DoDLive

Photo Credit: Sgt. Maj. Terry Anderson, 8th Theater Sustainment Command Public Affairs Shelly Caslen hugs her husband, Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen, commanding general, 25th Infantry Division, following a redeployment ceremony Nov. 5 at Wheeler Army Airfield. Caslen and more than 40 Soldiers from the 25th Infantry Division headquarters arrived home to Hawaii Thursday following a 12-month deployment to Iraq.byColonel KonTuesday, November 22, 2011Military Life:,,,

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