Local soldier who led troops into Iraq on first day of war says staying for long term right decision

By: Kristen Cosby
By: Kristen Cosby

Today marks three years since the war in Iraq began.

A war that's seen thousands of soldiers from Fort Gordon.

News 12's Kristen Cosby joins us with story of the man who led Fort Gordon's soldiers into Iraq on the first day of the war.

Lt. Col. John Rutt is part of US history.

He led almost 400 men and women from Fort Gordon into unknown territory in Iraq to set up phone and Internet communication for the Army.

And three years later, he believes it's the Army's job to stay.

News 12 first met Lt. Col. John Rutt in 2003.

He was preparing for a possible war in Iraq, inspecting vehicles that would be shipped there.

A few months later, in those same vehicles, he and others from Fort Gordon's 63rd Signal Battalion invaded the country on the first day of the Iraq war.

More than a year later Lt. Col. Rutt came home to his family...but never left the Iraqis and his fellow soldiers behind.

"My heart is still half a world away with my unit," Lt. Col. Rutt says.

And today, retired, out of camouflage and in a tie, Lt. Col. Rutt clearly remembers that first day of war.

"Of course there's a lot of uncertainty that goes along with any mission like that. You train for it and you have a lot of confidence in your equipment and your soldiers, but there's so much you can't control," he says.

He was focused on his unit's short-term mission, setting up satellites, but knew there was a big job ahead.

"In the big picture I think I did know we were going to be there for a long time. I didn't know how long," says Lt. Col. Rutt.

He believes staying for the long term is the right decision.

Lt. Col. Rutt served in Iraq before in Operation Desert Storm and doesn't want to see the army return a third time.

"We have the opportunity now to finish this and to make these people have a democracy. The other option is to leave and go back again," he says.

That's an option that would fall to another generation of soldiers.

Even though Lt. Col. Rutt is retired, he remains closely connected to the Fort.

He now works for Lockheed Martin on contracts with Fort Gordon.

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