“My fellow citizens, at this hour American and Coalition Forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free it’s people and defend the world from grave danger,” said Former President George W. Bush on March 19, 2003.
Just a few days after that announcement Col. James Hosey, Vice Wing Commander of the 439th Airlift Wing at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee got the call that he’d be heading to war.
Three weeks later he was on the ground in Baghdad.
“Everything was basically bombed out and then we had to reconstruct everything,” said Col. Hosey.
The Colonel’s unit lived in the Baghdad airport’s tower until it was rebuild. They ran what would later be called Baghdad International Airport. It was a vital part of the war effort.
“The nature of our job was to go in and set up and run the airlift, receive all the air planes, all the cargo, all the troops who are coming in and get dispersed,” said Col. Hosey.
The more than eight year war cost hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives. More than 134,000 Iraqis and more than 4,800 Americans were killed.
Three years into the conflict the country’s dictator Saddam Husseun was sentenced to death. In October of 2011, President Obama announced the war would be over by December of that year.
Col. Hosey says when he thinks back about his four months in Iraq he remembers all the skilled people he worked with and what he saw in the combat zone.
“Things would happen there, ya go I’ve never seen that and you have to deal with it,” said Col. Hosey.
He retired in 2005, but kept an eye on the war and continues to follow the country’s progress.
“It’s not done, nope and quite frankly it probably won’t be done for awhile,” said Col. Hosey.
Iraq continues to operate as a newly-formed democracy and it’s economy is improving. However, it’s still plagued by violence.
On Tuesday, a series of bombs exploded in-and-around Baghdad killing at least 48 people. So far, no-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.