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Video: The last U.S. combat forces leave Iraq

  1. Closed captioning of: The last U.S. combat forces leave Iraq

    >> of the last u.s. combat brigade in iraq . nbc's richard engel traveled with them. he's at camp virginia in kuwait . richard, good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt. soldiers from the 4-2 striker brigade , they call themselves the raiders, have officially crossed into kuwait . that happened overnight. their vehicles are still here behind me. the soldiers are now just waiting to go home. commanders on the ground tell us it was a historical milestone that changed the war as we know it. on a windless morning, already near 100 degrees before sunrise the 30-ton strikers crossed into kuwait . 440 soldiers, in 68 strikers, the last american combat troops leave iraq .

    >> good job, guys, good job. good job!

    >> reporter: just two american soldiers greet them as they cross the border. an understated arrival. although the soldiers have been driving all night, some cheer.

    >> we're going home !

    >> reporter: or light cigars. we accompanied the strikers on their journey out of iraq , code named "the last patrol." so this is the vehicle? it began on a base on the edge of baghdad . where the soldiers set off on the 326-mile drive to kuwait . the soldiers have just left camp liberty in baghdad . it's about 2:00 in the morning. they'll be driving for seven hours in the night, then take a break before pushing on to the border. the troops scan the roads, weapons armed. but mostly as a precaution. the threat is considered low. at sunrise we first see the road. the troops are driving down iraq 's main north /south highway. smooth, wide blacktop. what a difference to how american troops entered iraq . in the 2003 invasion, u.s. forces crashed through the desert to surprise iraqi forces. as they exit iraq , the strikers navigate through traffic on a road protected by iraqi troops, trained by american forces . unlike the invasion, too, the helicopters over the convoy aren't providing protection. but carry reporters taking pictures. our own video is broadcast by a satellite truck we affectionly call the blue mobile. it can transmit while driving. we will cross over this border within about 15 minutes . the satellite truck was named after nbc news correspondent david bloom . in 2003 , bloom used it to do the first-ever live television reports from a moving battlefield.

    >> but because it's an armored vehicle --

    >> reporter: sadly, bloom died of a blood clot before reaching baghdad . on the convoy to kuwait , lieutenant steven dewitt from san jose , california, knows he's taking part in a turning point for american troops, and the united states .

    >> it's just sinking in. a war that has defined this generation of military men and women. and today, it's over.

    >> reporter: in california, dewitt's family watches. and waits for his return.

    >> it's really great to see him as he heads the way out.

    >> reporter: but it was back on the kuwaiti border where we saw, perhaps, the most iconic image of this withdrawal. soldiers from the 4-2 striker brigade , unloading their weapon weapons. chucking the ammunition so it can be turned in. 7 naep years after the combat mission in iraq began.

    >> it is the end of war as we have come to know it as american soldiers , and as america.

    >> reporter: a withdrawal that for many soldiers, veterans, military families, and just americans, brings closure. an official ceremony will be held in iraq on the first of september to mark the official symbolic transition from the combat mission to that new training mission, which, by the way, is called new dawn. that officially will begin on the 1st of september. but this, the end of the combat mission as we know it, was the last american combat brigade receiving iraq . and now their vehicles just behind me in kuwait .

    >> richard engel in kuwait for us this morning. welcome images. richard, thank you very much.

Photos: Leaving Iraq

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  1. U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicles cross the border from Iraq into Kuwait on Wednesday, Aug. 18. The U.S. Army's 4th Stryker Brigade is the last combat unit to leave Iraq as part of the drawdown of U.S. forces. President Barack Obama had set a goal of reducing the number of American troops in Iraq to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. A U.S. soldier waves from his Stryker armored vehicle after crossing the border into Kuwait. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. A soldier dismantles a machine gun mounted on his Stryker immediately after crossing the border on Aug. 16. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. U.S. Army soldiers from 2nd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade race toward the border on Aug. 18. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Stryker armored vehicles through southern Iraq en route to Kuwait on Aug. 15. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Soldiers from C Company, 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division gather before the convoy to Kuwait. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A member of the U.S. Army's 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, carries an American flag after a departure ceremony at Forward Operating Base Constitution in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, on Aug. 7. (Moises Saman / The New York Times via Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division band plays during a ceremony marking the formal withdrawal from the last checkpoints they helped staff in the Green Zone of Baghdad on June 1. (Holly Pickett / Redux Pictures) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. U.S. military Humvees are ready to be shipped out of Iraq at a staging yard at Camp Victory on July 6 in Baghdad. Everything from helicopters to printer cartridges are being wrapped and stamped and shipped out of Iraq in one of the most monumental withdrawal operations the American military has ever carried out. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Workers sort through broken computer equipment that will be destroyed at a demilitarizing facility for unusable, un-transportable U.S. military equipment at Camp Victory on June 24 in Baghdad. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Workers operate machinery that destroys damaged concrete blast walls at the U.S. Joint Base Balad, north of Baghdad, on July 3. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, clear their weapons before boarding a military aircraft in Baghdad, as they begin their journey home on Aug. 13. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, board a military aircraft in Baghdad on Aug 13. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. An Air Force airman talks on a radio as Army soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division prepare to board a military aircraft in Baghdad on Aug 13. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Soldiers from 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, are seen on board a military aircraft in Baghdad on Aug. 13, as they begin their journey home. (Maya Alleruzzo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. U.S. Army soldiers carry the flag-draped transfer case containing the remains of a U.S. soldier out of a C-17 during a dignified transfer on the tarmac at Dover Air Force Base on Aug. 17 in Dover, Del. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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