UT Tyler Mathematics Grad Recalls Serving in Iraq
April 29, 2005

Sgt. Gabriel Gobea (right) receives the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.

After serving in Iraq for a year, Jacksonville Middle School teacher Gabriel Gobea can provide his students with fresh examples of how mathematics is applied to life.

The U.S. Army reservist, a 2002 UT Tyler graduate, put his career as a math teacher on hold when called to active military duty in November 2003. His unit was sent to Iraq in the spring of 2004, after three months of training at Fort Hood. Gobea returned home and to teaching in March, after being discharged from active duty.

While in Iraq, he was assigned to the C Company 980 th Engineering Battalion, whose mission was to reconstruct Camp Taji, an Iraqi air base, and surrounding village. The base, which is occupied by American troops, was badly damaged during the beginning of the war with Iraq.

A staff sergeant, Gobea supervised many of the reconstruction projects, and said the background he acquired as a UT Tyler mathematics major came in handy. “As an engineer in the Army, I used a lot of mathematics,’’ said the 29-year-old, who recently sent a note to the UT Tyler Alumni Association describing his experiences in Iraq.

“I strongly believe that the education I received at UT Tyler helped me not only to accomplish my missions in Iraq, but also to lead my soldiers. My math professors helped me to have that confidence in myself,’’ Gobea said. “There were times when I would teach my soldiers math so that they could better understand the projects we were building.’’

Working long hours under mortar attacks and extreme weather conditions, Gobea’s unit rebuilt roads and buildings, and worked to improve living conditions for the soldiers. Reconstruction of the airfield was the battalion’s biggest project.

“This was my first time to be on deployment, and it was hard to leave my family, friends and my job – which I really love – but I also knew what my duty was as a soldier. I love my country and I wanted to serve,’’ said Gobea, whose parents and siblings reside in Jacksonville.

While in Iraq, Gobea received letters and packages from his Jacksonville students. Those students are now in high school, but the school district made arrangements for them to visit with Gobea when he returned home. “We had a great reunion,’’ he said.

“It’s great to be home,’’ Gobea added. “I have been treated very well in the community and at my job. People I don’t even know come to me, shake my hand and tell me how much they appreciate what I have done for them. It’s great to know that there are a lot of Americans who support what we do.’’

 

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