It’s a Small World
I’ve known Robert Gasior a number of years from attending my grandsons’ baseball games at Valencia’s Hart Baseball Complex where his two sons also play. When Rob and his family attended my son’s Christmas Eve party last December, knowing that Rob had served in combat with the Marine Corps in Iraq, I asked him if we could meet for an interview. We recently met at Valencia’s Corner Bakery and had a very enjoyable conversation. It turns out that Rob served in the exact same unit in Iraq as last Friday’s Veteran, Colonel John J. Sega. It’s a small world!
Marine Corps Fascination
Robert Gasior was born September 11, 1968, in Bayonne, New Jersey, where he grew up graduating from Bayonne High School in June 1986. As a youngster, Rob was infatuated with war movies and he would march around his parent’s house pretending that he was a soldier and growing up, his respect for our military only intensified. Rob became especially impressed with the Marine Corps and their outstanding uniforms so when he turned 17 years of age, he convinced his parents to sign his USMC enlistment documents. The very next month out of high school, Rob took Boot Camp Training at Parris Island and then Infantry Training School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Camp Pendleton Service
Following a short leave of absence to return home, he was assigned to Marine Barracks Naval Air Station at Coronado Island in San Diego, California. As an infantryman, Rob was assigned to base security over “Special Weapons” (nuclear devices) for 18 months until June 1988. Rob was next assigned to 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton with short deployments to Okinawa, South Korea, Philippines, and Honduras until Desert Storm erupted. In March 1990, Rob’s unit moved to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at 29 Palms in southern San Bernadino County, California. Two weeks following Saddam Hussein’s Kuwait invasion, Rob’s unit flew to a port in Saudi Arabia and waited for a month for war supplies to arrive via U.S. Navy cargo ships. Rob’s 2nd Battalion was the first unit to deploy and the first that was combat ready for war. Rob said, “Our rapid deployment surely must have grabbed Saddam’s attention.”
Operation Desert Storm
Next, the 2nd Battalion convoyed north and became a blocking force as the concern was that Saddam was going to blow right through Kuwait to invade Saudi Arabia, though that did not transpire. Rob figured Saddam was intimidated by America’s immediate rapid response to his scurrilous Kuwait invasion. During their four month blocking detail, Rob and his fellow Marines were constantly training in preparation to extract Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The initial conflict to expel Iraqi troops from Kuwait began with heavy aerial and naval bombardments on January 17, 1991, and continued for five weeks. This was followed by a ground assault on February 24th code name Task Force Grizzly. Rob, a squad leader, and his unit actually entered Kuwait on foot patrol three days before the actual conflict began and their mission was to breach Iraqi mine fields with the aid of combat engineers and once pathways were cleared they assaulted and destroyed Iraqi bunkers. Iraqi forces used artillery and mortars to defend themselves but the Marines made quick work of them as numerous Iraqi soldiers were killed and wounded and many more quickly surrendered. This was a decisive victory for the coalition forces leading to Kuwait’s liberation before advancing into Iraqi territory. Coalition forces ceased its advance and declared a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started.
His unit’s next mission was to secure Kuwait’s Al Jaber Air Base, but it took longer than expected due to a major sand storm and blackened sky as Iraqi soldiers were lighting Kuwait’s oil fields on fire. Rob said, “The sky was so darkened and black that you couldn’t even see the man next to you.” Once that air base was secured, Rob’s job became a dangerous mopping up operation clearing out Iraqi bunkers. In March 1991, Rob’s unit returned to 29 Palms and on July 27, 1992, Rob received his Honorable Discharge and he became a Los Angeles Police Officer in September 1992. After seven years, Rob realized that he missed serving in the Marine Corps, thus he enlisted in the reserves as a Sergeant (E-5) in June 1999 and was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 23rd Marines Regiment, 4th Marine Division. Since fewer infantrymen were required, Rob’s MOS changed to Nuclear Biological and Chemical Defense Specialist.
One month after the horrific radical Islamic terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Rob’s unit was activated and sent to Camp Pendleton with his assignment to train battalion troops in chemical warfare. It was believed that more terrorist attacks would hit America and the Marines prepared to take action. This mobilization was intended to be a one year assignment, but as that year wound down, it was clear they would deploy to Kuwait and then invade Iraq as part of America’s new war against terrorism. In mid February 2003, two weeks after his first son was born, Rob’s unit deployed to Kuwait for one month, right back to where they were 12 years earlier. Rob said, “This combat deployment was really rough on my wife, Griselda as she was left to care for their baby boy all on her own.”
Operation Iraqi Freedom
On March 20, 2003, the U.S., joined by the United Kingdom and several coalition allies, launched a “shock and awe” bombing campaign, which decimated Iraqi military command and its forces which enabled Marines and Army units to barrel across Kuwait’s border. The mission was to rapidly overwhelm the Iraqi’s and to take Baghdad. Rob’s unit’s mission was securing the UN Compound and they experienced minor skirmishes as they busted through Nasiriyah, Al Far and Al Kut while doing so. Rob’s unit moved so rapidly that they finally had to hold up to wait for gasoline, ammunition and food supplies. Once in the UN Compound, the Marines promptly restored utilities and with amusement, Rob said, “I accessed a computer, went on-line and surprised Griselda with a bouquet of flowers delivered to our home”. After three weeks in Iraq, Rob and his fellow Marines were finally able to have showers. Rob’s next assignment was to train Iraqi policemen in proper law enforcement procedures, a hopeless cause as the Iraqi’s preferred on the spot judge and jury action on law breakers by beating them up. Rob’s tour of duty ended in July 2003 and he returned to Camp Pendleton and then to LAPD where he still works to this day.
Going back to early 1999, as a police officer Rob was transporting a prisoner to the County jail and simultaneously Griselda, as an L.A. Deputy Sheriff was doing the same exact thing. Arriving at the jail separately at the same time, Rob was smitten by her beauty and her demeanor as they engaged in small talk. Rob was attracted to her and seriously infatuated. That first encounter, destiny I suppose, led them to dating for three years and their love for each other grew until finally during a date, Rob took a knee and proposed to her. I asked, “What took you so long?” Rob said, “I was just scared.” Laughing, I said, “Man, you’re a combat Marine and a Los Angeles Police officer!” Rob and Griselda were married on October 5, 2002, at the MGM Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. They have two terrific sons and one charming daughter whom they love and are very proud. Their boys, Andrew and Anthony, play baseball and Amanda rides horses and plays piano. Sergeant Robert Gasior has served 26 years with LAPD and he hopes to retire in the near future, and meanwhile, he also teaches Criminal Justice at College of the Canyons in Valencia. Rob and Griselda, you are true assets to our Country and our community. Thank you both for your outstanding service.