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Last logistics battalion returns from Iraq

January 12, 2012

By Stephen Baker

FORT LEE, Va. (January 12, 2012)--When Soldiers from the 275th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion deployed to Iraq last March, they embarked on a historic 10-month mission that helped close the chapter on more than eight years of American military operations in the country.

At a "Welcome Home Warrior Citizen Ceremony" attended by friends, Family members and dignitaries honoring the returning troops here in Bunker Hall's Green Auditorium on Sunday afternoon, Lt. Col. Christopher "Sam" Houston, commander of the 275th CSSB, said the unit's initial mission in Iraq was similar to that of preceding CSSB's supporting Operation New Dawn.

"We went to (Contingency Operating Base) Speicher, which is in Tikrit, Iraq," Houston said. "At COB Speicher we were responsible for the combat sustainment of United States Division - North in a geographic area that encompassed more than 60,000 square miles."

Houston said the mission changed quickly, and the 275th became responsible for retrograde operations, directing the logistics of a drawdown operation larger than any tackled by the U.S. military since World War II.

"We had to do something that no CSSB had ever done before ... the complete closure and drawdown of United States and coalition forces out of Iraq," Houston said.

The 275th accomplished its mission at COB Speicher with such efficiency that it was ordered south to Camp Liberty in Baghdad to close down bases for U.S. Division - Central. After a repeat performance there, the 275th was sent even further south to COB Adder near Nasiriyah, Iraq, to close the remaining bases.

The 275th was expected to maintain a constant level of logistics support to troops still in Iraq even in the midst of relocating - something the unit had never done - but Houston said they pulled it off like true professionals.

While in the country, he said the 275th moved 1.8 million cases of bottled water, supplied 16 million gallons of fuel, processed 40,000 shipping containers and issued 16 million rounds of ammunition.

It was a major accomplishment for a unit as relatively new as the 275th, which was activated in November 2006 as the first Army Reserve CSSB under the 55th Sustainment Brigade, based at Fort Belvoir.

"There had been other drawdowns of forces, even in this same area, but what made this one different is that there was no cease-fire agreement, there was no peace treaty," Houston said. "All of the retrograde that we conducted out of Iraq was under threat of hostile enemy action, and oftentimes our convoys were under attack while we completed our mission. But we are proud to say that we safely completed it without losing any Soldier to hostile enemy action."

Before the 275th deployed to Iraq, Col. Theresa Baginski, 55th Sustainment Brigade commander, told its Soldiers: "There will be years in the future when Soldiers and units and generals will come forward, and they will study what your sustainment unit has done as part of this retrograde mission when we're faced with a similar situation."

Baginski was here Sunday to greet them again and praised them for the unit's success in completing its mission. "Be proud of what you accomplished," she said.

Houston said the 275th closed the doors on the final installations in Iraq Dec. 18, 2011, the same day U.S. troops made their way across the border into Kuwait. "It felt very good to turn the lights off in Iraq," he said.

"You get up every day and you put on the cloak of a hero," said U.S. Rep. J. Randy Forbes, R-Va., who was on hand to welcome the Soldiers home. The 275th includes Soldiers from the Richmond area, Hampton Roads, Northern Virginia and other parts of the state.

Capt. Dassie Jones of Virginia Beach deployed with the 275th CSSB. The father of two said, "It's good for the Soldiers to finally reunite and get back to some normalcy with their families."

Forbes said most Americans have little understanding of how much the nation's military members sacrifice on their behalf. "To the members of the 275th: let me thank you on behalf of the United States of America," he said.

His voice brimming with emotion, Houston told his troops and the audience, "The only remaining mission is the mission we're on now - to successfully reach home."

Mission accomplished.

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