After a 12-month tour in Iraq as part of the Army National Guard, E-4 Army Specialist Will Gnagi said that he wants to go into active duty to train other soldiers for war.
The former Payson resident, who plans to make a career with the military, said he would return to Iraq if he had the opportunity.
"If I could do it again, I would," he said. "It was a good experience."
Gnagi said his job in Iraq was to train Iraqi soldiers for a standard 10- to 11-month period, specifically in the handling of ammunition.
"There were four guys we were training," he said. "They would know nothing. We've taught them everything we know."
Although Gnagi's unit wasn't in an especially dangerous area -- they were surrounded by U.S. Special Forces, many guards, and were about five to 10 miles away from heavy fighting -- there was always a threat.
IEDs or improvised explosive devices were everywhere and a rocket exploded in the area near him on July 4, he said.
"It was sometimes scary," he said.
With the growing disillusionment of the war and the announcement by President George W. Bush to send more troops to the Middle East, Gnagi stands by the need for U.S. forces in Iraq.
"We shouldn't have troops die," he said.
"But if we want terrorists to stop, if we pull out, everyone will pull out and it will be a big blood bath for Iraq."
Gnagi believes U.S. troops will be in the Middle East for a while.
"We still have a lot of people we can't trust. U.S. Forces will be over there to get all the bad people out," he said.
Gnagi said his favorite part of duty was escorting Iraqi officers to the international zone or Green Zone. His unit would travel with four Iraqi Humvees in order to better protect the officers.
"The reason we're over there is to train their army so we don't have to be there," he said. "It's a really good cause."
The Iraqi Special Forces is mostly training its own soldiers now, he added. "They're about 80 percent running things, compared to 10 percent, without U.S. assistance."
Gnagi said that he learned a lot and had fun in his time training the Iraqi soldiers.
"All the Iraqis were really friendly, I was surprised," he said. "I played soccer with them. They love ‘futbol'."
He even shared some laughs with the soldiers who picked up some English after a time.
"When I told them my name was Will, they pointed to a tire. ‘Not wheel,' I said, ‘Will'."
Gnagi has 90 days off from military duty after returning from Iraq on March 4. He said he plans to transfer to Fort Lewis in Washington at the end of May to train other soldiers for combat.