From Cooperstown to Iraq

Lieutenant Colonel Sean Hill, left, with soldier from German army during NATO duty assignment. (contributed)

From Cooperstown to Iraq

By KEVIN LIMITI • Special to

Lieutenant Colonel Sean Hill is a Cooperstown High School graduate who bore the responsibility of being in charge of young men in combat as a member of the Army for 20 years.

He is now stationed in Canada but has been all over the world, going wherever his responsibilities as a member of the United States Army took him.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do,” Lieutenant Colonel Hill said upon graduating from college. “I was more interested in sports and other activities that aren’t conducive to earning a degree. I decided I would join the army.”

Lieutenant Colonel Hill moved from Hauppauge, Long Island, to Cooperstown and considered himself “kind of this oddball kid who moved from downstate” and used to get made fun of in gym class for his accent. “I lost my accent really quick,” he said.

He had it “pretty good in Cooperstown” and he considered it a place that had a pretty high value in education, noting some of the students who moved on and went to Ivy League schools.|

In 1998, Lieutenant Colonel Hill was in Bosnia after the breakup of Yugoslavia, providing security for U.N. forces that were on a peace-keeping mission. Part of his job was exhuming mass graves as a result of a genocide taking place at the time.

“There were a lot of mass graves all over the countryside,” Lieutenant Colonel Hill said. No gunfire was exchanged, but there was “the smell of rotting bodies.”

“It was eye-opening, to say the least,” Hill said of the experience.

He became an officer after going to school at Grand Canyon University. He became an engineer officer at the end of 2004. He was deployed to Iraq between 2006 and 2007 during the surge.

“My primary job was what was called route clearance,” Lieutenant-Colonel Hill said, which entailed trying to find IEDs and clearing them “so they don’t blow up on other people.”

He said there was a lot of fighting during that time and they were losing between 100 and 200 soldiers a day. He worked seven to 12 hours a day to “basically drive around and get blown up.”

He said he felt responsible for some of the decisions he made and struggled with it.

“I didn’t have anybody killed under me but I had a lot of guys who got injuries that manifested later,” said Hill.

He was deployed to Iraq again between 2009 and 2010 but afterward decided to go into a program for his master’s degree at Georgetown. He served in the Pentagon for three years, part of the time as a member of the joint staff and the other as a member of the Army staff. He was sent to Colorado for three years, and then went to Germany.

He said he basically was “driving around Eastern Europe with a tape measure” making sure tanks and other vehicles could get across bridges and other infrastructure. He lived in Germany for three years where he acted as an OCT (observer, coach, trainer) helping soldiers bound for deployment become trained and become ready.

After he was deployed to Canada, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel just this year. He has been married for 16 years and has 5 children. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, biking, hiking, and other outdoor activities.

He said he was always cautious about young guys who wanted to get in the middle of the fighting during his deployment in Iraq. “It’s not as sexy as it sounds,” Lieutenant-Colonel Hill said. “I had a bad time when I got back.”

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