More than 40,000 members of the U.S. Marines rolled over the Kuwait border into Iraq in March 2003, storming toward Baghdad. A near-civil war and more than six years later, the 3rd Battalion, 24th Marines is the last Marine infantry battalion left in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Mark Miner, a battalion commander, told the Marine Corps Times that the security situation in Iraq has changed for the better.
"The level of attacks has significantly decreased," he said. "But you still have to be cautious. You still have to be careful."
The 3/24 is deployed throughout Iraq's western Anbar province, once the hotbed for insurgency. Servicemen conduct routine patrols daily alongside their Iraqi counterparts. Col. Robert Mabry, who trains Iraqi forces in non-lethal combat, said the drawdown for U.S. forces is a sign of a new phase for Iraq.
"I think the best thing about this deployment is we're closing a chapter in Iraq," he said.
The 3/24 is scheduled to leave Iraq in January. All U.S. forces leave Iraq at the end of 2011.