Having Skin In The Game: A Long View Of Iraq

Brett Sylvia


COL Brett Sylvia knew from a young age that he wanted to attend West Point, and he worked to achieve that goal, graduating from the Military Academy in 1994 as an Engineer Officer. After starting out with the 1st Armored Division in Germany, he gravitated towards light units and spent much of his career with either the 82nd Airborne Division or the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). One constant throughout his time in the military is the centrality of Iraq. He worked with Dr. Paul Wolfowitz on the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and then served on the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq from 2003-2004. During “The Surge,” he was the Operations Officer in 5-73 CAV in Diyala Province. After returning from Iraq, he again served at the Pentagon as American involvement was decreasing in Iraq and increasing in Afghanistan. Most recently, he commanded 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) during Operation Inherent Resolve, an advise-and-assist mission with the Iraqi Army. In this interview, COL Sylvia provides his perspective on nearly two decades of involvement with Iraq. He discusses his career against the backdrop of persistent conflict in Iraq. He examines the improvements in the Iraqi Army in their fight against the Islamic State, and describes the resilience of the Iraqi and Kurdish people. Finally, he talks about how West Point and Ranger School have shaped him as a leader.


conflicts Iraq War
topics GWOT Global War on Terror Leadership Military Techniques Patriotism West Point History
interviewer David Siry
date 22 February 2017


name Brett Sylvia
institution USMA
graduation year 1994
service Engineer
unit 307th EN BN; 2BCT, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)
service dates 1994