Editor’s note: This is one of a series of articles that will run until Labor Day in advance of the Shelby County Historical Society’s Week of Valor, including the return to Sidney of the Vietnam Memorial replica wall and a Field of Valor featuring American flags in Custenborder Park. Flags for the Field of Valor can be purchased by calling 498-1653. The project commemorates 2015 as the anniversary of the beginning or end of several U.S. armed conflicts. This series will include stories about most of America’s wars. Today, a Sidney native discusses his role during the Iraq War.
SIDNEY — When then U.S. Marine Cpl. Thomas Fogt, a Sidney native now living in Piqua, got off the plane in Kuwait in 2003, he saw a “barren land” that didn’t change as he journeyed into Iraq for a nine-month deployment there.
“”The first town we went through was Safwan and I was looking at all the mud hut homes,” he said recently. But what he saw didn’t surprise him.
“My expectations weren’t really out of the league of what we were getting into, especially in the southern part of Iraq,” he said.
Fogt joined the Marines in 1998, and graduated from Sidney High School in 1999. A communications specialist for the air wing, he was responsible for managing equipment that permitted communication among forward elements, rear elements and air traffic. He was based in a unit that ran forward arming and refueling points.
“We had communication with airplanes and helicopters coming in, telling them whether they’re coming in to a cold landing or a hot landing,” Fogt said.
During a cold landing, an aircraft lands and shuts down. A hot landing means that the aircraft lands without turning off its engines, refuels, rearms and takes off again right away.
Fogt was part of the initial wave of troops the U.S. sent into Iraq in a war that stretched from 2003 to 2010. The invasion that started it all was purportedly to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) supposedly stockpiled by President Saddam Hussein. He was captured in December 2003 and executed in 2006. No WMDs were ever found. The U.S. and its allies overran Hussein’s army almost immediately after the invasion. Fighting continued, however, until the U.S. withdrew all troops in 2011 because sectarian skirmishes between Shia and Sunni Muslims escalated into insurgencies against the U.S.
Fogt was in Iraq for nine months in 2003.
“We were directly behind the front lines,” he said. “We were the air support for the front lines, so as they moved forward, we moved forward with them.”
He admitted to being scared sometimes.
“There’s fear that’s embedded in you, but the focus point on your job kept your mind off it,” he said. Because he was among those tasked with keeping the front lines safe, he didn’t allow fear for himself to get in the way.
“We were involved in a lot of mortar attacks and SCUD missile attacks on us,” he added.
Fogt had gone to boot camp in Parris Island, South Carolina, got additional training at the School of Infantry at Camp Geiger, North Carolina, and then went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He spent time at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California, before he was deployed to Okinawa, Japan.
From Japan, he returned to the U.S., to the Marine Air Station at Cherry Point, North Carolina, before he went to Iraq. Then it was back to Japan and back to Cherry Point before he was discharged in 2006.
Civilian life, however, wasn’t for Fogt.
“I was a civilian for 20 days,” he said. After which, he joined the Army. He is now a sergeant first class transportation specialist stationed at the National Guard post in Piqua.
“I’m working on getting a medical retirement,” he said. He enjoys hunting deer and spending time with his parents, Larry and Jamey Fogt, of Anna; his children, Audrey Fogt, 15, Andrew Fogt, 13, Jeffrey Blackford, 12, and Sophia Fogt, 5, and his wife, Heather.
“That’s the most important thing because I lost all that time (when I was) in the Marine Corps,” Fogt said. What he liked the best about being in Iraq was seeing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, known as the cradle of civilization. And like many another soldier who saw duty there, he thinks the U.S. pulled out too soon.
“Now we’ve left that nation in a civil war,” he said. But he’s proud of the role he had to play there “in the overall scheme, being part of the team that helped liberate the Iraqi people.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.