On Sunday we said goodbye to Alpha Company.
We're driving some 18 kilometers to a nearby Washington National Guard unit -- Bravo Company of the 14th Engineers Battalion.
We travel in Humvees along a well-used and well-patrolled road.
Even before such a routine drive, Sgt. 1st Class Alexis Cruz gives the soldiers the standard briefing to keep their eyes open for IEDS (Improvised Explosive Devices), and to be alert to small arms fire.
We head out of the base's south gate and down a road lined with small sheep farms.
The trip is quiet then suddenly there's a loud explosion back off the road, which kicks up a towering cloud of dust.
Thomas and I jump at the sound. We're told it's nothing -- just an Army team setting off some ordnances.
We arrive at a soggy outpost for some 300 soldiers. It's called Forward Operating Base Vanguard, full of "container" bunkhouses spread out across an old Iraqi fuel storage depot.
The most curious landmarks here are the "anthills," tank farms that are covered with concrete and then topped off with earth, apparently to make them harder to see from the air. This will be our home for the next few days.