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Around midnight on Aug. 16, 2010, at their base on the northern outskirts of Baghdad, Lt. Col. Richard D. Heyward, center, of Illinois, and his men bow their heads in prayer before starting a road march to the Iraq-Kuwait border. They are members of the Army’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last formal U.S. military combat detachment to leave Iraq ahead of America’s end to combat operations in its seven-year Iraq war.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Spc. Mitchell Fosman, 22, of Las Vegas plays guitar as his company, soon to depart Iraq, awaits the start of the road march. In the next few days, 360 military vehicles and 2,300 soldiers will exit by road through Baghdad and the Shiite south to Kuwait.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Sgt. Nick Wysong keeps watch as Strykers stop for fuel on their way out of Iraq.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

A herder looks after his camels as the herd crosses paths with members of the 4th Stryker team. For many U.S. soldiers leaving Iraq, the names of cities –- Baghdad, Mosul, Fallouja, Baqubah -- are marked with blood and regret for years spent away from family.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army vehicles roll toward the border with Kuwait.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Young Iraqi shepherds wave to members of the passing U.S. combat team.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

The march is all mapped out for the soldiers, who are leaving Iraq after 11 months. The journey was kept quiet in an effort to help protect the troops as they left the country.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

After two 12-hour troop movements, Spc. John Ray takes a break inside a Stryker vehicle as he and the team continue to push toward the Iraq-Kuwait border.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Guns are loaded in preparation for the U.S. road march through Baghdad and southern Iraq to Kuwait.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Some of the 360 military vehicles leaving Iraq make the final turn to reach the Kuwait border.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Lt. Col. Richard D. Heyward, left, of Illinois and Sgt. Nick Wysong of Washington keep watch as the 2nd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, crosses the desert lands.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

U.S. military vehicles cross from Iraq into Kuwait at the end of their last patrol.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

U.S. soldiers face Iraq from the border at the end of the last patrol.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Spc. Tyson Kuwaye, 29, of Hawaii lifts Spc. Matt Cullum of California at the end of the road march to the Kuwait border.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Sgt. Jason Thompson and Lt. Col. Nathaniel Fleger, both of Georgia, wave to the final Stryker as it leaves Iraq on Aug. 19, 2010.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

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Last combat brigade leaves Iraq

Staff photographer Carolyn Cole photographed the U.S. Army’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, the last formal U.S. military combat detachment to leave Iraq ahead of America’s end to combat operations in its seven-year Iraq war.  Staff writer Ned Parker’s story, and her photographs document  the 360 military vehicles and thousands of soldiers as they drove through Baghdad and the Shiite south en route to Kuwait. Cole also documented the start of the war for The Times in 2003 and life in Iraq in late August 2010.


  1. August 18, 2010, 6:18 pm

    you guys and girls rock this world i am so proud of you all and i want you to hold your heads high, america is proud and you have overcome the odds of war and you are coming home, welcome back. we love you all!!!!!

  2. September 30, 2010, 5:22 am

    Ya those are some brave men and women right there it doesnt get much more heroic then that.. I am just happy that they will get to come home again and see their families. We will be waiting to welcome them back home..

    By: Billy
  3. August 19, 2010, 10:13 am

    A reminder to President Obama, to Sen. Kerry, to Sen. Reid and all others who said "the war in Iraq is lost"; that "the Surge will never work"; that "we're just there as occupiers" and "just there to get the oil" . . .

    You were wrong.

    By: Kurt
  4. August 20, 2010, 2:27 pm

    You lost.

    Get over it.

    I'm sure you can get Hollywood to re-write history for you later just like Vietnam.

    Another pointless war; another pointless sacrifice of brave Americans for a lying president. Bush, Kennedy, Nixon it's all the same.

    By: chunkylimey
  5. August 20, 2010, 5:11 pm

    Hollywood re-wrote Vietnam? You mean we won, and had noble intentions, and the troops really weren't a bunch of war criminals?

    By: Publius
  6. August 19, 2010, 12:58 pm

    That's my old man front & left

    By: Junior
  7. August 19, 2010, 4:24 pm

    To all of you – WELCOME HOME – The Beer is chillin and the Barbaque is ready. Congrats on a hard fought battles and heroic feats. Time now to kick it and pop a top or two. Thanks for doing the things many people would run from. Semper Fi and Gods speed on a safe return trip…

    By: Glen
  8. August 19, 2010, 8:23 pm

    Welcome Home!
    Our hats are off, and we infinitely admire your courage, dedication, and strength you continue to demonstrate throughout your service.

    By: Anthony
  9. August 20, 2010, 8:40 am

    Just a few days ago a bomb went off in downtown Bagdad whick killed over 60 and wounded over 125,our forces have been stationed in Iraq since 2001 and we have lost over 4500 dead young and women, an unstable government is left in charge of Iraq (one that the USA installed) and the folks who have so far posted seems to have forgotten those facts.The truth is that the Iraq that exists today is much the same Iraq that existed 4500 dead Americans ago.

    By: Jim
  10. August 20, 2010, 2:57 pm

    negative. there is a whole lot more dead badguys. The world has seen if you screw with us on our homesoil we will come to yours!! Putting our heads in the sand and doing nothing solves nothing when real killers are plotting and schemeing. Peace costs. Iraq is a much better place with a real chance to help provide more stability in the area and the world. Iraq was a disgrace before we got there. terrorist recruitment haven and blackmarket contributor , needless to say the killer leader we got rid of. Either one is peaceful or you aren't. if the latter sometimes action needs to be taken. All these men and those before them are heroes. ty guys. !!

    By: Hawkseyez
  11. August 21, 2010, 5:19 am

    What utter crap you just spewed!

    Iraq didn't "screw with you"; it had oil so you went in and took it under the guise of "spreading democracy". At no point has Iraq ever done, threatened or been in a position to do anything to the states.

    4,500+ dead allies and over 100,000 dead Iraqis (mostly innocent civilians) later, all that's left of Iraq is a smoking ruin without a government or basic infrastructure. As evil as Saddam Hussein was, the country did at least function under him, people had jobs, people were able to go to school, people had power and water. Beyond all this, the cultural loss in destroyed and looted relics from museums and universities is immeasurable.

    All these soldiers have done is ruin a country for corporate profit. They're dupes not heroes.

    By: John
  12. August 20, 2010, 3:33 pm

    Thanks to Obama a withdrawal date was set for the return of the troops, something the republicans did not want….they are still against the withdrawal date Obama set for Afghanistan. Without Obama and the democrats election victory, the withdrawal of the US troops would’ve NEVER occurred because Mccain was/is AGAINST setting withdrawal dates. THANK YOU OBAMA!!!!!!

    By: Chris
  13. August 20, 2010, 4:46 pm

    I came, I saw, I went back home. Whatever the politics of it all mean or meant, I want to thank you who sent us soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines cards, gifts, baby wipes or other care packages. I started this in 1990 with the gulf war and now, 20 years later, will be done with it. I am happy to be able to have completed a 20 year tour of duty with many trips to Iraq, and maintain my sanity. Thanks to all of you for the support, we all appreciate it over here while deployed.

  14. August 20, 2010, 9:48 pm

    Obama opposed the Iraq surge.

    1) The drawn down of troops was outlined to Congress by Gen David Petraeus fall 2007. Or is that General Betrayus?

    2) Not a Vietnam quagmire

    3) We win = democratic losers trolling this board

    stop hating!

    By: 13times
  15. August 21, 2010, 8:11 am

    It’s disappointing when we cannot just see this picture and be thankful for the sacrifice. When I see this picture it gives me chills. I don’t see republican or democrat. I see soldiers who sacrificed. Who are now coming home, whether they should have even been over there or not.

    By: Mariah
  16. August 22, 2010, 3:22 pm

    Awesome picture! Thank you so much for posting these pictures. This one is very touching.

    This Army Mom went through many days of nerve racking, heart wrenching anxiety waiting to hear anything about the Brigade arriving in Kuwait safely. What did I find here but pictures of my son's unit! What an overwhelming comfort… you will never know.

    To these brave Soldiers- I love you. As I heard during the casing ceremony, "One more mission Raiders, it's time to go home. Raiders! To The Objective!". Well done.

    To those who are responding negatively to these pictures: Show some respect- These Soldiers allow you the freedom to criticize them. No matter what your politics, they stood strong and left Iraq a better place.

    Leslie Chambliss
    Broken Arrow, OK

    By: Leslie Chambliss
  17. August 31, 2010, 10:32 pm

    […] Last combat brigade leaves Iraq » Advertisement var ord=Math.random()*10000000000000000; var url_script=window.location.href; document.write(''); […]

  18. September 1, 2010, 6:18 pm

    […] See more of Cole’s photographs during the earlier years in Iraq and those of the last U.S. combat brigade to leave. […]

  19. September 15, 2010, 12:48 pm


    By: kynskynseon
  20. September 21, 2010, 8:47 am

    Wow really? i was very excited to see that our soliders were coming home and how happy most were. and as i read down i saw the mean and nasty comments and the fighting over all this. can’t it just stop already these men have giving nine years of there lives, and so many people have lost sons fathers bothers cousins uncles. It needs to stop everyone. just let them all be happy they have fought so much for us. be proud not mad.

    By: Jessica
  21. September 13, 2011, 4:29 pm

    Welcome home to my sweet son, that little boy I held in my arms knowing he would probably someday follow in our family's tradition to serve his country. Sometimes we don't agree with the politics of the time, but please please don't take it out on our sons and daughters who are just serving their country. His dad came home at the very end of the Vietnam War and was treated terribly. He never recovered. Please don't do that to my son, too.

  22. October 22, 2011, 1:27 pm

    As an atheist (who is in Iraq now) I find the praying during military functions offensive. Praying to a made up God is not going to help – it might make you feel a bit better but doesn’t stop the IED from killing you. Also, as we leave Iraq with a questionable government I don’t see us having won. We got rid of Saddam, gift wrapped Iraq and handed it to the Iranians. This was a terrible mistake and we leave Iraq much worse off then when we got here. Did we leave an enemy in our wake or an allie; only time will tell.

    By: OffendedAtheist
  23. October 24, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I find it offensive you'd not allow people to have freedom of religion simply because you don't believe. Like it or not, God is real and prayer does help. I'm living proof of that. Just because you hate God and religion doesn't mean the rest of us have to follow in your narrow minded footsteps.

    By: offendedchristian
  24. October 31, 2011, 11:46 am

    You soldiers are heroes and you deserve to come home and be celebrated for your efforts! Meanwhile guys like John McCain have been blasting our withdrawal as nothing more than a "victory" for Iran.

    More like good sense John!

    By: Guinnesstimate

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