UNCERTAIN VICTORY Veteran wanted to finish what the allies had started WAR IN THE GULF


Specialist Gerald Rosier and his Army unit were preparing to attack Iraqi troops in a town deep in Iraq when orders crackled over the radio to pull back.

The war was over, they were told.

"Go to hell," Rosier felt like saying. "That made a lot of guys mad."

Since that day a year ago, Rosier, 22, has left the Army, come home to Westminster and joined the Maryland National Guard. He is receiving unemployment checks while looking for a job.

As do many Americans, he still believes the war was right, but incomplete. Recent polls say that two-thirds of Americans believe the war should have been pressed until Saddam Hussein was driven from power.

"I think we should have finished it. I think we pulled out too early," Rosier said. Saddam may "get gutsy again," he said, "and we're going to have to go back."

The Persian Gulf War was smooth and swift, contrary to earlier fears of a long and bloody ground campaign against Saddam Hussein's supposedly crack Republican Guard. Rosier said his unit moved into Iraq along a path laid out by Air Force carpet bombing.

The fear of some soldiers and their families that Persian Gulf veterans would be shunned upon their return, as were the men who served in the Vietnam War, also proved unfounded.

Cities and towns across the country feted the homecoming troops. Rosier marched in national parades last June in Washington and New York.

Rosier said he doesn't think about the war much now, but when he does, the uncertain ending still bothers him.

While he was in Saudi Arabia waiting for the war to begin, commanders talked about how the object was to crush Saddam. But Army cynicism led Rosier to suspect otherwise.

"Politics," he explained.

Rosier served as an anti-tank gunner with the 82nd Airborne Division, which landed in Saudi Arabia just days after President Bush ordered the mobilization in response to the Aug. 6, 1990, Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Rosier's unit trained and patrolled first within Saudi Arabia, then in the neutral zone between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. The terrority was desolate except for the occasional nomad who hadn't yet heard the news that war was brewing.

"Nobody out there but him and his sheep," Rosier said. "We met a lot of people like that."

Finally, the sight of war planes filling the sky a year ago today provided the first glimpse of the way home. The beginning of the air war meant the ground war was soon to follow. As the saying went around camp: "The road home is through Baghdad."

Rosier's unit was part of the westward sweep around Iraqi lines during a ground war that veered shy of Baghdad. Rosier had no occasion to fire the anti-tank gun, but he says he did shoot Iraq resisters with his M-16 rifle during the advance.

The killing doesn't haunt him. "It's your job," he said, adding that he doesn't want to sound cold about doing what he was trained to do.

Most of the men in his unit supported the war as he did, but a few worried that it might be the start of the Apocalypse prophesied in the Bible. "They didn't have any problem fighting a war," Rosier said, "but they didn't want to be fighting God."

Rosier returned to Fort Bragg, N.C., in April and came home to Westminster last month. Since the war, he has struggled with a )) domestic economy that cannot yet accommodate the ambition he has held since childhood of becoming a state trooper.

While continuing to look for a job, Rosier is considering applying to college to study criminal justice. His urgent civilian goals tend to crowd out reminiscence of the war.

"It was a job," he said. "Put on my boots and go to work."

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