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ISSUE 121 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/26/2007

Sergeant discusses military

By Emily Koester
News Editor

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sergeant John Kriesel, a member of the Minnesota National Guard who lost both his legs and two comrades in a road bomb explosion in Iraq, discussed his personal experiences in the military with St. Olaf students last Wednesday. Kriesel, who spoke in Buntrock 142, expressed optimism about his time in service as well as about the outlook of U.S. military operations in Iraq.

Kriesel opened his talk with memories from his peacekeeping mission in Kosovo prior to his service in Iraq. "It would have been nice if that had been the craziest thing I'd seen, but that wasn't in the cards," Kriesel said.

He went on to describe the difficulty he faced as the leader of a unit in Iraq who lost his comrades in an explosion. "I didn't bring all my guys home safe – that's one of the things I wrestle with," Kriesel said.

When asked about his two artificial legs, Kriesel smiled and held one up to demonstrate. "This is a C-leg," he said. "It has a computer chip that analyzes the ground 40,000 times per second and sends a message up to the knee and then it swings." Kriesel later added, "Once a second would be enough for me."

Kriesel had served for nine months in Iraq before the accident on Dec. 2, 2006. Kriesel's Humvee, carrying five passengers, drove over a pressure-sensitive, 200-pound bomb made out of C4 and strips of garden hose, causing Kriesel to lose two of his men.

Kriesel's talk, part of this year's theme of "Liberal Arts in Times of War," was conducted in a largely informal question-and-answer format. Audience questions ranged from inquiries about Kriesel's personal experience to his overall opinion on the war.

When asked by an audience member about timelines for withdrawing, Kriesel disagreed with the idea. "I think we should wait till it's done," he said. "If we have a timetable, they'll wait it out. They don't have a timetable." Kriesel also stated that all military operations take time. "As long as I've been in the military, I've never seen Plan A work. I've never seen Plan B or Plan C work."

Kriesel noted he has seen vast improvements in some areas of Iraq, such as reduced violence in Ramadi, but the media doesn't make headlines of those improvements. "People don't have time to read the 20th paragraph of a story and realize the situation is getting better," Kriesel said. "The politics part need to be taken out of it. Let the military fight the war."

Kriesel also noted that the Iraqi army has assisted U.S. efforts giving an example of an Iraqi led siege against an Al-Qaeda base. According to Kreisel, Iraqi police tend to be more corrupt than the Iraq military. When asked about making moral decisions, Kreisel acknowledged the difficulty of doing so, particularly when it was so difficult to know people's intentions. "The military always said go with your gut," Kreisel said. Kreisel also said that he was never certain when he left his base during the day whether or not he would return alive that night. One audience member, who later identified himself as an intelligence agent, praised Kreisel's bravery. "He's a bad mo-fo," he said.

Despite his loss and negative public opinion about the war, Kreisel expressed gratitude for the time he was able to serve. Kriesel said, "Ultimately I want to make my family, friends, and loved ones proud."

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