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US soldiers prepare to hand Camp Adder back to Iraqi forces

Photography by Joe Raedle / Getty Images

U.S. Army Spc. Matthew Carpenter, left, from Conway Ark. and Pfc. Thomas Adgate from LaMarque, Texas of the 2-82 Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, participate in what will be their last mass casualty drill, Dec. 2, at Camp Adder as the Army continues to send its soldiers and equipment home and the base is prepared to be handed back to the Iraqi government later this month at Camp Adder, near Nasiriyah, Iraq. The United States military continues its pullout of the country by the end of this year, after eight years of war and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

Camp Adder is also known as Tallil Air Base.  The massive military complex was heavily damaged by coalition bombing missions during the Gulf War in 1991, and it has been used by several coalition groups since the second Iraq war ended. U.S. forces are scheduled to return the base to Iraqi control later this month.

I’m happy to see more and more soldiers coming out of Iraq. Seeing all of the homecoming videos popping up on youtube is the best part. It’s easy to spend a whole day watching them.

However, I struggle to find any meaning in the war as I look at Joe Raedle’s pictures. In the end, maybe we’ve simply learned to appreciate the people who were willing to serve while the rest of us enjoyed the comforts of home. I hope the country can “support the troops” with good veterans’ benefits and an economy that provides some decent jobs for returning solders.

Left: Captain Bishop Sparks from West Palm Beach, Fla. gathers his soldiers together on Friday to let them know when they are heading home.
Right: Specialist Sirlen Arriaza, left, from Indianapolis and Private First Class Michael Carter from Orlando, Fla. wrap up a 50 caliber machine gun as they prepare to ship it back to the United States on Dec. 1, 2011.

Left: Soldiers from the 2-82 Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, push a tire into a shipping container as they pack up their equipment.
Right: Lt. Adam Pettus, from Tulsa, Okla. has the laundry room to himself as he washes clothes in a near-empty Camp Adder on Dec. 2, 2011.

Left: Soldiers from the 2-82 Field Artillery, 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, play a game of basketball on Friday as they relax before leaving Camp Adder .
Right: Sergeant Jeffrey Merrick from Columbus, Ohio pulls cases of equipment to a shipping container on Dec. 2, as his unit packs its equipment in preparation for leaving Camp Adder.

An empty bus stop is seen in Camp Adder on Dec. 2.

Vice President Joe Biden talks to TODAY's Ann Curry about the war in Iraq as he wraps up his final visit to the war-torn country before the U.S. military's withdrawal at the end of the year.

Related story: End of an era as US military hands Camp Victory to Iraqis