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Iraq: breaking up is never easy

The "deconstruction" or Iraq continues apace. But where does all that stuff go?

Lt. Col. Paula Lodi and her soldiers from the 15th Special Troops Battalion of the 15th Sustainment Brigade are responsible for dismantling and handing over the base to the Iraqi government this fall. As a combat commander at Q-West put it, Lodi’s battalion will “turn off the lights” on their way out the door.

“Q West is essentially a small city,” Lodi said as she gave GlobalPost a tour of the 20-square-kilometer base. The Massachusetts native, who speaks with a strong southern accent acquired from her years stationed below the Mason Dixon line, pointed to the facilities that will need to be dismantled before the handover: an ammunition dump, water purification facility, aircraft repair hangars and air traffic control tower. The gym and dining facility would remain, she said.

“Unless someone says there’s a need for them, those are likely in the category of things that would be more cost effective to leave,” she said. “The Department of State, Department of Defense, and they all get to look at the list and determine what the need is elsewhere. When get list back, then work on getting that property packed up, loaded and sent out where we’re directed to send it.”

Lodi says “rolling stock,” like Humvees and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles, or MRAPs, will be shipped back to Kuwait with individual units as they leave the base. So too will weapons and specialized equipment like radars, communication equipment, computers and spare vehicle parts.

The key to closing down the base is ensuring that no interruption to the combat units still operating out of Q-West until they’ve packed up and left. Lodi says there is a basic blue print for how to close down a base. Q-West isn’t the first to close in Iraq. But she’s proud of how it’s being done.

"We’re not leaving in a hurry — we’re not leaving in a state of chaos,” she said. “We’ve got plan, and we’re executing that plan, and closing out the mission in an organized fashion with a lot of honor and dignity.”