On a mission to elevate the level of academic discourse by bringing first-hand insight into the discussion of the war in Iraq, the political science department is hosting an “Ask a Vet” forum. Six veterans are going to discuss their experiences serving in the U.S. military. One of the main goals of the forum is to encourage personalized questions from the students, not to advance debate. The panel will show a variety of experiences and perspectives, as the members have served in many different countries, doing different jobs with different political beliefs.

Rob Florkowski joined the military fresh out of high school in 2000 and served until 2005. He spent two years as a rifleman in the infantry and was stationed in Germany. Florkowski was deployed to Kosovo as personal security for the company commander for six months. After his service in Kosovo, he spent another three years as a sniper after graduating from sniper school and the International Special Training Centre. He then took a job as a sniper instructor at the ISTC.

Florkowski was deployed in Iraq for one year as a sniper team leader. He worked and trained with American and Iraqi special forces, which was often a nerve-wracking task. Florkowski does not trivialize the war, but he has a great sense of humor about errors in communication with the Iraqi special forces. During a raid in Samara with the Iraqi Army, the Iraqi soldiers almost decapitated his team with their inaccurate fire. Thinking his team was the enemy, the Iraqis made a huge mistake. Florkowski acknowledges it was a serious situation and one he will never forget, but he cracks a smile at the end of the story. Also, for a perilous sniper mission of high priority, the infamous General Batiste awarded the Army Accommodation Medal to his team.

Florkowski has made an appearance on the Discovery Channel to discuss his service in Iraq and co-authored two books on the soldiers’ experience in war. Much of Florkowski’s work has been to spread knowledge about first-hand experiences in Iraq. According to him, “The information you get in the media is not reliable.”

Another veteran who will sit on the panel is Peter Boraas, who served in the U.S. military from 2001 to 2005. Boraas trained in Fort Benning, Ga., and was a ranger in the 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Wash. His unit performed a show for the president, storming a fake city while the president stood on a roof and watched. Boraas was deployed five times to the Middle East and, in Iraq, he was on a mission to find weapons of mass destruction and catch “high value targets,” a term used for describing terrorist leaders. Boraas served in the same unit with football player Patrick Tillman, where they spent time together before Tillman’s tragic death in an ambush.

Dave Hassan joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and served until 2007. He worked in Iraq as an Arabic translator for one year. Since his return to the States, Hassan has filed for conscientious objector status and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Morgan Solomon joined the military in 2001 and served until 2005 as a medic, working with the Blood Transshipment Center. She is currently an Individual Mobilization Augmentee reservist who will serve again if needed.

Dave Holmes, who is also the staff adviser of Student Veterans at UCSB, served from 1999 to 2005. He was deployed to Greece, Japan and the Philippines during his service and was honorably discharged as a sergeant.

Ross Nolan served from 2000 to 2005 and is now president of the College Republicans. He was deployed to Japan and Iraq, where he ran tactical data systems as a Marine.

The forum is designed to be non-partisan, so political questions are not off-limits, but the event emphasizes the fair representation of different opinions. The “Ask a Vet” event will be held on May 15 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Theater and Dance building, room 1701.