First In The Door: Local Soldier Hunting Iraqi Insurgents Shares Sights And Sounds

This week's CNN/Gallup poll shows 58 percent of Americans now think our troops should have never gone to war in Iraq.

22-year-old Private First Class Ryan Krumblis, whose family lives in Tyler, has been there serving in Iraq since last year. He is often the first in the door when homes are raided, and insurgents rooted out. He is back in Iraq now, but on a two-week leave late last month, he spoke with KLTV 7's Morgan Palmer, and gives us a look through pictures and video of his life at war.

"There were a lot of infantry units over in Iraq. I joined the infantry knowing that I would see action within the first years."

Ryan Krumblis has all the look and sound of a war veteran. Getting shot at is all in a normal day.

"Generally, it's a small rate of fire. Nothing too substantial," he says.

But when you see the photos and hear the stories, it's hard to believe Ryan's just been in Iraq since August -- in the army a bit over a year. He's a radio-telephone-operator, and takes photos to document his life working in the third largest city in Iraq.

"Mosul used to be old Nineveh, so there's a lot of history there," he says, though there's little time for sightseeing. There are so many streets, and Ryan and his buddies of the First Platoon Regulators, Charlie Company of the 172nd Strike Brigade patrol each one. In their mission, there are no front lines.

"We're generally on sector 12 to 18 hours a day and we have a platoon covering a sector 24 hours."

It means stopping cars, searching homes, and being shot at a lot. Life and death are a step or an instant apart, like last October.

"As we were loading up [in a vehicle], we had a white four door sedan pull around the rear of our security, and when he did, he opened up with an RPK, which is a fully automatic machine gun. When this happened, he put about 30 rounds in the back of our vehicle. Seven of them that we know of actually came into our vehicle. We had one of our riflemen hit in the back of the next. Fortunately, he was wearing his interceptor body armor and it was deflected," Ryan says.

"It's very loud. It's very confusing. Because on the streets, it's hard to hear where it's coming from because it's echoing on the buildings around you."

Ryan says to breathe a sigh of relief is an understatement.

The platoon searches homes looking for any enemy activity, and when they find something, suspect there might be a target, they get ready to move in.

A buddy will open the door and Ryan will be first inside.

"I just filter in and take the path of least resistance.  At that point, I'm in charge of yelling out what we see. If I see civilians or hostiles. If we enter a long room or a short room, whether I've got doors to my right, whether they're closed or not," he describes.

More often than not, the building is clear. Life for these soldiers has it's terrifying moments, though there's always the chance to get to know the people of Iraq on their daily patrols. The kids are everywhere.

"You have as little inteaction as possible because you've got to pull security, but at the same time, you want to say 'Hi' and give them some candy and that's what we do," he says.

With every person and around every corner they must watch and sometimes act. On November 19th, there was a possible sighting of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the rumored leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The First Platoon Regulators were supposed to be first in, but another platoon got the call.

So Ryan went to the house as backup.

"When [the other platoon] went in, they sent their first squad in, and you have to bottleneck. And what you do is called the 'Fatal Funnel,' you come from outside and push in. When they did, the Syrians were ready with three mortar rounds, and they had been modified with grenade pins."

Thursday night at 10pm, more stories from the front line, including the shock of losing one of his buddies in battle. Despite the pain of war and of loss, Ryan tells us he supports the war effort, and that troops should not be pulled out before Iraq is stabilized.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.