Final wave of NW soldiers welcomed home from Iraq

Dec 7, 2011

As of this morning, there are fewer than 100 Northwest-based soldiers serving in Iraq. A plane carrying the final large group of returning soldiers touched down at McChord Field near Tacoma at dusk Tuesday. 

The sweetest words for 170 Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers and their families: "Captain, dismissed!"

Dismissed for the 17th Fires Brigade. Wives, children and relatives poured from the gym bleachers. Sergeant First Class John Moore says he was aware of "a sense of history" on the plane ride home. He says the combat patrols on this Iraq deployment were "tamer" than a previous tour a couple years ago.

"The country is a lot more controlled now. It seems like the government and the actual government officials have a lot better control of what's going on in the cities," says Moore. 

Moore is cautiously optimistic about Iraq's post war future. The Army says it's on track to withdraw the last remaining combat troops by a year-end deadline.

View from Iraq

Al Jazeera reports from Iraq that, of course, tens of millions of Iraqis are not leaving the country and for them the war is not over, not when car bombs and assassinations are a part of daily life. At least 187 civilians were killed last month in attacks, according to official figures, and the actual tally is almost certainly higher. The security situation in much of the country remains tenuous at best.

But for the US military, the war is indeed ending: There are 8,000 American troops in Iraq today, down from a high of 170,000, according to General Jeffrey Buchanan, the chief spokesman for US forces in Iraq. "And that number moves fast," he said.

Barring some unforeseen (and unlikely) change, that number will be down to zero by December 31, save for a contingent of about 200 soldiers attached to the US embassy in Baghdad. That deadline is mandated by the US-Iraq status of forces agreement signed in 2008.

On the Web: