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The World

December 19, 2011

Last troops exit Iraq in subdued end to 9-year war

(Continued)

Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commanding general for Iraq, walked through the rows of vehicles, talking to soldiers over the low hum of the engines. He thanked them for their service.

"I wanted to remind them that we have an important mission left in the country of Iraq. We want to stay focused and we want to make sure that we're doing the right things to protect ourselves," Austin said.

Early Saturday morning, the brigade's remaining interpreters made their routine calls to the local tribal sheiks and government leaders that the troops deal with, so that they would assume that it was just a normal day.

"The Iraqis are going to wake up in the morning and nobody will be there," said Spc. Joseph, an Iraqi American who emigrated from Iraq in 2009 and enlisted. He asked that his full name be withheld to protect his family.

Camp Adder is now an Iraqi air force base, although they don't have any planes yet. Many of the Americans spent their last day sweeping out the trailers that housed thousands of troops and contractors while Iraqi officers came by to inspect their future domain.

Little by little, the U.S. military gave up pieces of Camp Adder. Soldiers closed down guard towers, turned over checkpoints leading into the base and left hundreds of vehicles, oil tankers and trucks in vast lots with the keys on the dashboard.

The volleyball and basketball courts stood empty. And no one worked out at the gym called "House of Pain."

The roughly 13-square-mile base had at one time been a major way station where troops and supplies often stopped on their way south or north.

But by the time the Americans pulled out for good, their numbers had dwindled so low that the wild dogs that used to be too afraid to come near the living quarters now wandered freely through the rows of trailers and concrete blast walls.

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