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Mark Geary's Reporter Notebook: Camp Shelby, Thurdsay, August 26

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Today was our final day at Camp Shelby. We finished up our work last night around 1:30 a.m. and everyone fell asleep right away. At 4:30 a.m., soldiers' alarm clocks started going off. Our final breakfast was much like the others here: eggs, biscuits, grits, milk, juice and coffee. There has never been a shortage of food around here, that's for sure!

Photographer Jim Slosiarek used the sunrise to capture some amazing pictures of the soldiers. Videographer Dane Firkus put finishing touches on some of our upcoming pieces about the Iowa National Guard. Even though our time at Camp Shelby ends today, we've gathered quite a few stories. Keep watching KCRG-TV9 News at 10. We'll have stories tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. Plus, the Cedar Rapids Gazette also plans to publish some of my articles and Jim's photos, too. We're all really proud of these upcoming stories.

Major Mike Wunn, the Public Affairs Officer, has worked with us all week long. Because we are members of the media and civilians, we had to be escorted at all times by the military. Major Wunn made countless phone calls for us and helped arrange too many interviews to count. Without his help and willingness to find answers to all of our questions, we would have never been able to tell such great soldier stories. We simply cannot thank him enough.

Major Wunn picked us up from the Forward Operating Base we stayed at around 7:30 a.m. and we followed him back to the cantonment area. Then, we went to a place with WIFI access and sent all of our video and stories back to KCRG-TV9. While we were sending the material back, Jim snapped a few final photos.

Next, we visited the Post Exchange and bought a few mugs to help us remember our time at Camp Shelby. Then, we turned in our body armor and helmets. I can't say that I'll miss those. Right before we drove out of the gate, we took a few photos together and said goodbye to Major Wunn. As we drove out of the gate, we all felt sad to leave the place, but also excited that we had the opportunity to spend so much time there.

Right now, I'm typing this on a laptop while Dane is driving us back to Memphis. We're going to stay overnight in Tennessee tonight. Friday morning, we'll head back to Cedar Rapids. Tomorrow, I'll post some final thoughts and reflections on our time at Camp Shelby.

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