State Senator Will Kraus (R-Lee’s Summit) received word that changed his life and the lives of his family members for part of 2003 and 2004. He learned he would be among thousands of U.S. soldiers who served their country in Iraq.
The Iraq War began after President George W. Bush said there was evidence that the Middle Eastern country had weapons of mass destruction. Bush also said Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism must end and the Iraqi people should be freed from Hussein’s regime.
Kraus found himself about 7,000 miles away from his wife, two small children and his home in northwest Missouri. His chinook helicopter pilot experience led him to embark on several night flight missions during the 15 months he was in Iraq. Although his deployment was more than a decade ago, some memories still stand out in his mind.
Kraus was the senior ranking officer of his convoy that included nearly 100 soldiers. When they crossed the border into Iraq, the reality sank in for Kraus.
“I wanted to make sure I brought everybody home. My goal was that I trained these soldiers so that if something happened, we minimized casualties and we made sure we got everybody that was hurt back on a vehicle and moved out of the area,” says Kraus.
Kraus says one of the scariest moments for him while serving in Iraq was when he was flying west of Baghdad international airport.
“The gunner right behind me at the three ‘o clock position says ‘missile three ‘o clock.’ We’re trained for those situations to react,” says Kraus. “Mr. Collins was on the control. So he dropped the thrust, which is the power to the aircraft.”
They ended that mission unscathed.
Kraus says the toughest decision he made in Iraq was the route of a night flight mission that involved four chinook helicopters. Three chinooks could land, but the fourth had to wait.
“Do you logger three chinooks over the area and potentially get shot at? The decision I made was we would reduce our speed and get on our route heading home. That way we weren’t flying over that we could get shot at and the route we picked was in an area that was least populated,” says Kraus.
Not everyone involved agreed with Kraus’s decision, but that mission also ended successfully for Kraus and his crew.
Kraus’s 24 year military career began in the U.S. Army and he continues to serve in the U.S. Army Reserve. His service to his country has also included deployments to Canada and Uganda.
The highest rank Kraus has held is a Major in the Missouri National Guard. He has given up that rank to go back to flying on the front lines. Kraus says “flying a desk isn’t as fun as being in the cockpit.”