BAGHDAD Maj. Robert Shuck doesn't hear the explosions going off like he did when he was in Baghdad the first time in 2004.
"I can tell you since July I have not heard one explosion," said Shuck, in a Feb. 19 phone interview from Baghdad.
But back in 2004 when he was there, he said, "I was hearing explosions which were almost a daily occurrence."
Submitted Photo --
Maj. Robert Shuck, judge advocate for the U.S. Army’s 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, sits in his law office in the camp in Baghdad. This is his second deployment there. Shuck lived in Minot, Ruthville and Minot Air Force Base for a total of about 10 years when he was growing up.
"From my own personal viewpoint of the war, that's incredible," he said of the changes.
Shuck is the staff judge advocate the head lawyer for the U.S. Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division. He arrived in Baghdad in July 2008.
Shuck lived in Minot, Minot Air Force Base and Ruthville for a total of about 10 years when he was growing up and his dad was stationed at Minot Air Force Base. His family left Minot a year before he graduated from high school. He graduated from high school in England. Shuck, who was commissioned in the Army, went to law school at Washburn University in Kansas. His parents, Dave and Debbie Shuck, now live in Kentucky.
Rob Shuck has many fond memories of growing up in Minot and the base area, and calls this area home.
"We were members of the North Hill Baptist Church for many years," he said, reminiscing.
He remembers fishing at Lake Darling and "I did the whole Boy Scout thing..." he said.
And like many kids in North Dakota, he went hunting on opening day of deer season.
On a trip through North Dakota with his wife, he said they went by the base to see the schools he attended there North Plains and Memorial.
It was some of the "best times of my life," said Shuck of living in North Dakota.
After leaving North Dakota following their first stay here, Shuck said they went to Tampa, Fla., and Las Vegas. But he said they weren't Tampa and Las Vegas people. "My dad volunteered to go back (to Minot)," he said.
Shuck's law office is in a trailer within a camp. "It beats the tent I lived in (during his previous time in Iraq)," he said. The camp is just outside the city and near the airport.
Shuck's law office includes two military attorneys, six paralegals who are enlisted soldiers, an Iraqi attorney, a Navy chief petty officer who is master of arms and a contract law enforcement officer.
The major part of his job is making sure the commanders and staff officers spend money correctly, helping Iraqi forces "pinpoint the bad guys," among other work.
He said much of his job in Iraq definitely wasn't in any law school curriculum.
Shuck gained international notoriety back in 2004 when he was in Iraq the first time when he was assigned to defend Staff Sgt. Ivan L. "Chip" Frederick II, one of the soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib abuse case.
Frederick was in charge of the night shift, Shuck said.
"It was the first thing that happened to me," Shuck said of getting the case. He said his boss gave him a file with a CD with the pictures.
Shuck, who was the senior defense counsel, dealt with all who were charged.
Frederick was court martialed in 2004 and paroled in October 2007. "He did three years confinement and parole now," Shuck said.
The former Abu Ghraib prison has had news attention again it will reopen and has a new name, Baghdad Central Prison.
If there is something he would like people to know about Iraq, Shuck said that would be: "It really is a completely different experience than it was before."
"(Before it was) almost daily morning explosions and the sound of something blowing up in the background pretty regularly. And the fact that, like I said, I haven't heard anything since I've been here. That was the biggest surprise for me," he said.
He went on, "I think the biggest thing that we're facing now is getting away from doing things for the Iraqis and helping them build the system to help themselves. It's much easier to build stuff (i.e. a courthouse)," he said. "It's much harder to show them how to use it."
Shuck said security also has dramatically improved.
Right now, he said the job of the military is it's partnering more and more, and overseeing the Iraqis doing their job. "Before it was us doing the job. My job now is to work with the Iraqi army, police and judges and get them together and get myself out of a job," he said.
Shuck's wife, Shannon, who is from Indiana, and their daughters Jordan, Alexis and Kelsey, ages 12, 10 and 8, live in Germany where he will return this summer.
"This is a long ways from debating Fargo North and South, to Iraq," he said, reminiscing about his participation in debate while in school in Minot.