Josh Galiyas of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania served with the 101st Airborne Division and US Southern Command from 2001-2008. He was in army basic training during the 9/11 attack and in 2003 he was among the first troops to enter Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. While awaiting orders to launch into Iraq from Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait, Josh’s unit was attacked by army sergeant Hasan Karim Akbar, a Muslim convert who feared that US troops would harm fellow Muslims.
On the first Monday of each month throughout 2015, we conducted oral history interviews at the Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives in the Senator John Heinz History Center. The library is closed to the public on these days, so the staff graciously invited us to meet with local veterans and use this space to record and preserve their stories.
On September 14, 2015, we invited three senior Pittsburgh area veterans to the Heinz History Center to share their stories with the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. First to be interviewed by executive producer Kevin Farkas was Ed Blank, who served with the Army during the Vietnam War. Then we were joined by Norm Rosfeld, WWII radioman on a B-29, followed by Josh Galiyas, army veteran of the Iraq War and survivor of the Camp Pennsylvania incident.
“Before I joined the army, did I ever think I could end up in a war?” Josh says, thinking back to his high school days. “Sure I did.” That comes with the territory, he admits. But war, he realized is a miserable experience. It’s the worst thing anyone could go through. “Sure, my time in the army made a man out of me, but war is not something I enjoyed.”
In 2003, as Josh Galiyas’ unit staged in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq, Sergeant Hasan Karim Akbar (formerly Mark Fidel Kools) threw four hand grenades into three tents in which other members of the 101st Airborne Division were sleeping, and fired his rifle at fellow soldiers in the ensuing chaos. Killed in the attack were army captain Christopher Seifert and air force major Gregory Stone. Fourteen other soldiers were wounded by Akbar.
In 2005, Sgt. Akbar was convicted and sentenced to death. His sentence has since been affirmed by the courts in 2012 and 2015, and he currently awaits execution. Akbar was the first soldier since the Vietnam War to be convicted for “fragging” fellow soldiers overseas during wartime.
The original interview was recorded September 14, 2015 at the Heinz History Center by the Veteran Voices of Pittsburgh Oral History Initiative. This audio short was engineered and produced by Kevin Farkas.