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The World

December 19, 2011

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

(Continued)

Sgt. First Class Hilda McNamee was the truck commander in the last MRAP to drive out of Iraq. The 34-year-old said when she gets back to Texas, she plans to take her son to the International House of Pancakes.

For her the significance of the last convoy driving out was immediately apparent.

"It means I won't open a newspaper and find out that one of my friends passed away," said McNamee.

She welled up but didn't want to go any deeper. Some memories will always be too fresh.

Going home will also bring new dangers for the troops.

Col. Douglas Crissman, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, said one of his biggest concerns now was making sure that all his soldiers who survived this deployment also survive their re-entry into what is supposed to be a safer world.

"Quite frankly, we lost more soldiers in peacetime in the nine or ten months before this brigade deployed due to accidents and risky behavior ... than we lost here in combat," he said.

His brigade, which controlled the four provinces in southern Iraq, lost three soldiers during this tour. Two were killed by roadside bombs and one was killed by a rocket, likely as he was trying to get to a bunker.

But in the roughly 10 months leading up to their deployment, they lost 13 people. At least one was a confirmed suicide.

The U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq, hoping to foster a lasting relationship with the nation and maintain a strong military force in the region. Obama met in Washington with Prime Minister al-Maliki last week, vowing to remain committed to Iraq as the two countries struggle to define their new relationship.

U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain. U.S. defense officials said they expect there will be no movement on that issue until sometime next year.

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