Gregg Kocher ’82 (writing under the pen name Burke Toliver) wrote Adak and Cubane, two action/adventure novels that feature Brick, after serving on active duty in the U.S. Army for eleven years as a bomb disposal officer.
After being commissioned through the IUP ROTC program, Kocher was part of an international group that helped clean up unexploded ordnance in Kuwait in 1991 during the Persian Gulf War. He also served a tour in Baghdad in the summer of 2003, working with the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, a sub-agency of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Kocher is now a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserves and still works with the DIA. In his civilian job, he is a UXO (unexploded ordnance) Safety Specialist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, investigating former military bases for old bombs and bullets that have been left behind.
“I don’t consider the job dangerous, although potentially it could be,” he said. “Sometimes the difficulties of climbing 13,000-plus-foot mountains in Colorado or getting a vehicle stuck in sand in 117-degree heat in southern California present the greatest challenges. But, you have to go where the bullets are.”
Kocher searching for UXO in Colorado
That usually means remote spots, although UXO has been found in people’s backyards, in city parks, and on public beaches.
Kocher holds the Master Explosive Ordnance Disposal badge and has consulted to the Defense Intelligence Agency and counterterrorist task forces. His participation in the Gulf War earned him a Bronze Star Medal, and he was awarded the Defense Meritorious Service Medal during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Many actual experiences were incorporated into Kocher’s books, both humorous and scary. For example, when he was part of a joint FBI/DOE task force formed to find and neutralize stolen/improvised nuclear devices, they experimented with silly string to mark sophisticated booby-traps.
“Some of the stories in the books needed no exaggeration, while I took a little license with others,” he said.
LTC Kocher at Al Asad Air Base, Iraq, in July, 2003
His wife, Janet, a native of Indiana, Pa., knows the drill. “I think she worries more about my forty-six-mile commute to work than any dangers from bombs,” he said.
Kocher and his family live in Missouri. His oldest daughter, now sixteen, was born in the Republic of Panama (She and Janet were evacuated from there during the invasion of 1989). Their other daughter is ten.
His first book, Adak, is dedicated to a good friend who was killed during the Gulf War. Brick’s adventures are available at Amazon.com, PublishAmerica.com, and major booksellers.