Auburn-based soldier served three tours in Iraq

Riboli reflects on Iraq war, being away from family
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The war in Iraq was declared over last week, but Staff Sergeant Deno Riboli knows like his commanding officer, First Sergeant Ken Mattingly, that for 4,485 U.S. military families it will never be over. Riboli, a member of the Army National Guard Charlie 1-184 Infantry based out of Auburn, served three tours in Iraq. Along with the sacrifice of his fellow soldiers, he said he has seen the Iraqi people freed from an oppressive government, violence there decrease and the Iraqi Military become much stronger. Riboli was first deployed with an army long range reconnaissance patrol in 2003. He served two tours with the patrol before going back in 2009 as a convoy commander in the National Guard. He went with Bravo Company 184 and 185. “You could see the change over the years. It was definitely less violent,” Riboli said. “I think now it’s a nation that’s rebuilding. For those families that lost someone you can say it’s over, but it will never be over.” Each time his convoy was hit, Riboli said vital training kicked in and no lives were lost. He remembers the dry deserts covering the land, car dealerships and a water park in Northern Iraq and the surprise of seeing women dressed in Levi’s in Baghdad. The camaraderie and sense of duty have called him back to the military time and again. He first served as a U.S. Marine from 1995-1999. “I’ve tried that twice and it didn’t work out for me,” Riboli said jokingly. Currently, he’s in the National Guard, works part-time as a member of the Honor Guard and attends Sierra College, where he is pursuing a career in criminal justice. Amidst the warm memories of friends he’s made and places he’s traveled, Riboli knows one of the most difficult parts of serving is being at war, away from family during the holidays. “Being overseas and away from everyone during the holiday season because everyone is back home living their normal life, but your life is pretty much on hold,” Riboli said. As he began to adjust over the years, he helped out other soldiers by giving them some of his presents if they didn’t have family. Riboli said he is thankful that today’s soldiers even get to take leave at all. “In World War II they were fighting for two years straight,” Riboli said. Riboli reports to First Sergeant Ken Mattingly. Mattingly said Riboli’s dedication to his country and team were undeniable. “It’s just always, ‘Hey no problem sergeant, I got it,’” Mattingly said. “That was a big thing. He also has good rapport with his soldiers. He makes sure they are taken care of and treated fairly. He is always looking out for his subordinates. He has the attitude of always trying to do the job.” Mattingly said the convoys Riboli led could be a mile and a half to two miles long. They delivered vital supplies and security for troops across miles of hostile territory. “Our job was to make sure that everything in Northern Iraq kept running,” Mattingly said. “We kind of kept everything going. They do it because they live for this. They love their job and they love their country.” That meant sometimes going up to nine and 10 weeks without a shower. Mattingly joked that that’s where the true bonds form. “It’s like I know what you smell like eight weeks without a shower.” Mattingly said while the convoy security went unharmed, Charlie 1-184 had many casualties. That included the deaths of soldiers and others who were wounded and honored with the Purple Heart and Bronze Star medals of honor. “Even though the war in Iraq is over, for some families it’s never over. They have to deal with that everyday,” Mattingly said. “It’s good that we can close that part of history. I had great times and I had sad times.” Reach Sara Seyydin at