Posted: Oct 22, 2011 9:44 PM by Liza Sullivan and Kathy Kuretich
Updated: Oct 24, 2011 8:24 AM
A day after President Obama announced a total-troop withdrawal from Iraq...
A former National Guardsman from the Central Coast is reacting to the declaration, with mixed emotions.
Robert Plastino, a 13-year veteran with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, spent a year in Iraq as part of the Military-Police Company.
In 2003, the war in Iraq began with shock and awe, and Staff Sgt. Robert Plastino was called to duty, along with the National Guard's 649th Military Police Company, based out of San Luis Obispo.
"Most of us were definitely not combat tested so it was brand new to us and to our unit," said Plastino.
They found themselves in a country embroiled in a civil war... where IED's and suicide bombers were commonplace.
It was their job to train the Iraqi police.
"We vetted intelligence information and went out and did raids on suspected terrorist locations. But at the same time, we're also training cops to do this on their own," said Plastino.
Now, nearly nine years later, President Obama declared the withdrawal of 39-thousand U.S. troops over the next two months, because the Iraqi government wouldn't grant legal immunity for American service members.
"It's up to the Iraqi peole to actually take that and move it forward. We can't be there forever. I think bringing our troops home from Iraq is a good idea," said Plastino.
Grateful to be at home in Santa Maria, Plastino flips through photo albums of his tour of duty... reminded of the people he met... and the freedom they strived for.
"They gave... especially those troops that were wounded and killed over in Iraq... gave the greatest freedom possible to the Iraqi people," he said.
With the war in Iraq wrapping up by the end of the year, Plastino hopes the United States can focus on more issues here at home.
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