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U.S. Troops Leaving Iraq

Aired December 9, 2011 - 04:00:00   ET


CARL AZUZ, HOST, CNN STUDENT NEWS: Fridays are awesome, especially for the students at Defiance Middle School in Defiance, Ohio, because one of them was the first to get our social media question of the week. I`m Carl Azuz. CNN Student News starts right now.

First up today, we`re hitching a ride with a U.S. military convoy as it makes its way out of Iraq. At one point, there were more than 150,000 U.S. troops serving in the Middle Eastern nation. By the end of this month, there will be less than 200. Martin Savidge discovered that for the ones who are leaving, the journey out of Iraq could be the most dangerous one they make there.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): 2:30 am, and the convoy comes to life in the dark bitter cold. Despite the time and temperature, these soldiers of the 82nd Airborne are in a good mood. This trip will mean their war is almost over.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, scouts, over here.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): The trip has taken six weeks to prepare, mainly because of security. Convoys are tempting targets, especially for IEDs. To counter them, the U.S. military began using MRAPs, mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles, steel monsters weighing several tons (inaudible).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s go. Get in the truck!

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Looking like snowplows, trucks with massive rollers designed to detonate mines lead the way. Once on the Iraqi highway, the soldiers are now the most vulnerable they have been during their entire deployment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wicked (ph) 5-4, Wicked (ph) 5-4, dock at once (ph). Radio check, over.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Helicopters, providing cover from the air, check in. If there is going to be trouble, convoy leaders believe it will be in and around Baghdad. But instead the only thing the convoy meets is the rising sun.

The drive drags on and on. The MRAPs are so packed with bodies and gear, it`s hard to find a spot to rest your feet. The air conditioning is kept near freezing so the soldiers remain alert.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bravo Company just called up that they may have received small arms fire in the vicinity of the rest stop.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Some lead vehicles have come under fire at a place where the convoy planned to take a break. The rest of the MRAPs bypass the problem, opting instead to stop later at the side of the road.

SPC. CHRISTIAN GORKE, 82ND AIRBORNE: We`re making sure everyone has a chance to trade out their drivers, trade out their gunners and basically just make sure people have a chance to stretch out their legs.

SAVIDGE (voice-over): Eventually, we make it to Camp Adder. It`s been a grinding 10 hours at an average speed of just 13 kilometers, or 20 miles an hour. Here, the convoy will spend the night.

SAVIDGE: What does that mean for you?

SGT. JONATHON SKELTON: That means one step closer to home, hopefully, if everything goes to plan.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: See if you can ID me. I`m a U.S. state, but I used to be an independent kingdom. I`m a popular tourist destination, and I`m home to around 1.3 million people. I`m the most recent state to join the union.

I`m Hawaii, and my islands are actually the tops of underwater volcanoes.


AZUZ: Now some of those volcanoes are still active. Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, and it`s not just blowing smoke. Lava is flowing out of the volcano and making its way toward the ocean.


AZUZ (voice-over): That means it`s moving across land, and in this case, through a subdivision, or rather what`s left of a subdivision. Incredible video we have for you here.

The lava has been flowing through the Royal Gardens neighborhood. Most of the folks who live there have left by now. There was still one person staying in his house, but not anymore. The homeowner was rescued by helicopter this week after he was cut off by this lava flow.


AZUZ: When CNN Student News reports on stories that have an impact on people`s health, a lot of times those reports come from Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He`s CNN`s chief medical correspondent.

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the quake in Haiti, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, all these were stories he covered. And recently Dr. Sanjay Gupta sat down for a CNN Red Chair interview, and talked about the effect that covering these kinds of stories can have on someone. Take a listen.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I`m Dr. Sanjay Gupta. I`m a neurosurgeon. I operate on the brain and the spinal cord. I`m also a reporter, the chief medical correspondent for CNN.

I try not to be one of those guys who says, look, if you could only see what I have seen. But if you have time to think, if you sit back and think about the fact that we all live in the same world, whether or not you live in the developing world, it is the same world.

And by good luck or fortune, you were born into a situation where you have things that other people don`t have. But that`s it. It was good luck or fortune.

It`s gotten to the point now where I feel guilty going, because I know that I`m going to leave almost assuredly. We do get to return to a place that has running water, a warm bed, guaranteed food. And most of the people in the places where we go, they don`t have that.

My guess is that anybody who`s done some of the reporting that we`ve done, that a lot of folks at CNN here have done, probably have some component of post-traumatic stress. You know, we`re so lucky. We`re so privileged. And you see people who don`t have that.

You try and make sure people at least know what`s happening around the world so they -- you know, they may -- they may care a little bit more about it.

I got interested in science when my grandfather got sick. He was my mom`s father, and a couple of the doctors that cared for him were neurosurgeons.

My parents were engineers. They had degrees in engineering and economics and they were interested in business. And I just wasn`t interested in any of those things, and there was nobody in my family who was a scientist, nobody in my family who was a doctor. We`d never had a doctor in my family.

So I finally found something that I thought could spell out the rest of my life. And from then on, I was -- I was hooked. I was hooked on medicine, I think, right around the time I was 12 or 12 years old.

You never forget your first solo operation, just a sweet lady. She came to see me in my office and I told her it -- she had a brain tumor. It was a benign brain tumor, as far as I could tell.

And literally, as I`m walking out the door, I`m about to shut it, she says, "Oh, by the way, Doctor, how many of these have you done before?" And I literally turned around, I looked at her and I said, "Ma`am, you wouldn`t believe how many of these I`ve done before," shut the door, walked out. And it went well, so you know, that`s how it starts sometimes.



AZUZ (voice-over): Dr. Gupta`s certainly a hero to us, and he`ll be part of the all-star tribute for this year`s CNN Heroes. You can watch the program this Sunday when it airs live on CNN at 8:00 pm Eastern, 5:00 pm Pacific. And if you go to, you can learn more about this year`s Top 10 Heroes in the CNN Heroes box.

Teachers, it`s also where you`ll find our free Heroes curriculum guide.


AZUZ: After a story we ran yesterday I asked on our blog if you could see any benefit to giving up all electronics for three days. Most of you said no, and that you`d hate it.


AZUZ (voice-over): But a few of you, like Kolton, said one benefit is that you would be more active and go outside and play basketball in the driveway and football in the front yard.

Seth also said people would get more exercise because a lot of us sit around and just play with electronics all day.

From Jeremy, it would give teens a chance to go outside and be more active.

Maygen can see more free time and more time to focus on school. "I know if i had all my technology taken away I would probably have straight A`s because there would be no distractions.

Maygen, don`t let your parents or teachers see this.

Brad says it would be refreshing because it would allow people to get away from life and focus on actual people .

And Kali -- or Kali -- writes, "It would make you value the things we have today and make us think how it was back then. It would probably be easy for me, since I don`t have my own cell phone and my family doesn`t have a TV."



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today`s Shoutout goes out to Ms. Gustafson`s social studies classes at Woodrow Wilson School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. According to a famous saying, what is worth a thousand words? You know what to do. Is it money, silence, a picture or love? You`ve got three seconds, go.

If you`ve ever heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, then you know that`s your answer, and that`s your Shoutout.


AZUZ: A thousand words might not be enough to describe the artwork in today`s "Before We Go" segment.


AZUZ (voice-over): . or the artist. We can use one word: monkey. His name is Pockets, and it turns out that Pockets is a prolific painter, profitable, too. His art`s on display at a gallery in Toronto, and people from as far away as Europe are spending hundreds of dollars to buy the monkey`s masterpieces.

We tried to get him to sit down for an interview.


AZUZ: . but the primate Pollock just "brushed" us off. He`s just happy that he gets to pocket some "Monet" for his art. It`s certainly more impressive than those monkeys that play with a "Dali." It`s time for us to "move-an-Gogh" off into the weekend before we "paint" ourselves into a corner with these puns. We will "canvas" the news to bring you more headlines on Monday. For CNN Student News, I`m -- sorry.