“You’d Better Make Something Of This”: Commanding An Armor Battalion In The Invasion Of Iraq

Ernest P. "Rock" Marcone


Rock Marcone grew up in Rochester, New York, but moved to Hollywood, Florida, when he was 14. His parents were both from immigrant families. His father was a firefighter who served in the Navy during WWII in a ship repair unit. His mother came to the United States when she was 30 in 1956, having survived World War II, and was a homemaker and seamstress. Rock’s younger brother, Daniel, served in 1st Ranger Battalion. As a boy, Rock was interested in football, baseball, soccer, and history. In high school, he played outside linebacker and fullback. As high school graduation approached, Rock realized there was no money for school and his father was worn out by life, so he considered enlisting. He had received a nomination to West Point from his congressman, and a slot at the Prep School at Ft. Monmouth was available. Prep School was a struggle for Rock, who was horribly dyslexic. He failed math twice and English once, but he loved the experience. He was the starting strong safety on the Prep School football team, but even so, admission to the Academy was not guaranteed, and his Tac informed him, “You get the last slot. You’d better make something of this.” Arriving at the Academy on R-Day in the summer of 1982, he remembers teaching his roommate how to shine shoes and mark his clothing. He felt like he started slowly academically, but finished strong, eventually earning a spot on the Dean’s List. He did well militarily, and his Firstie year, he served as the Battalion Commander for 1st Battalion, 3rd Regiment. He excelled physically at the Academy, starting out playing Junior Varsity for the football team before switching to 150s (Sprint) football, where he played safety and linebacker and eventually served as team captain his Firstie year. As a Cadet, he met his wife on a blind date. She was the daughter of an Artillery Lieutenant Colonel, and they were married at the Catholic Chapel. He commissioned into the Infantry and his first assignment was with 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment in the 9th Infantry Division, where he led both a rifle and a scout platoon. His first company commander set a poor example, but his second, Chris Morey, USMA ’82, was a great leader. Additionally, he had two excellent Platoon Sergeants. Following this assignment, he transitioned to Armor and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 37th Armor, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley, Kansas, where he served as the S3 Air. He deployed immediately to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm and was assigned as the Brigade Liaison Officer and as the Night Battle Captain. When 3rd Battalion, 37th Armor was assigned as the Breach Force, Rock was positioned with the TAC and “learned a lot from the rehearsals and talking to the Engineers.” He describes seeing the “Highway of Death” on his advance into Iraq. His unit secured Safwan, Iraq, and he recalls taking care of civilians on the battlefield. He remembers a lot of foreign actors, and a lot of women who had suffered physical abuse. Next, he set up the airfield for the peace talks that ended the fighting. After the war, he finally returned to Kansas (he had deployed to Saudi Arabia directly from the Advanced Course), where he took command of Company D, 3rd Battalion 37th Armor and later HHC. After his time in Command, he earned a Masters Degree in Leadership and Organizational Design from Long Island University before reporting to West Point as a Company TAC for I-2 from 1994 to 1997. He describes the changes that had occurred at West Point since his graduation in 1986, and reflects on meeting some of his Cadets later in the force. After Command and General Staff College in 1998, he returned to the 1st Infantry Division, but this time they were serving in Germany, and he was assigned as the S3 of 1st Battalion, 63rd Armor in Vilseck. In April 2000, he was assigned as the S3 for 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Schweinfurt. He really enjoyed his S3 assignments and got to experience good training at CMTC (Combat Maneuver Training Center) and during gunnery. He shares his experiences on September 11, 2001, when he was a Deputy G3 as a Lieutenant Colonel and was participating in a German – American ceremony. He returned to the United States in December 2001 and in June 2002 he took command of Task Force 3-69 Armor in the 3rd Infantry Division, deploying to Kuwait on January 7, 2003 for the invasion of Iraq. His task force was assigned as the advanced guard for 1st Brigade of 3rd Infantry Division, and from March 23 to April 4, 2003, his unit covered 350 miles and fought seven battles. His final assignment in the Army was as the Senior Armor Trainer and Senior Brigade Trainer at the National Training Center (NTC) from 2004 to 2006. After retiring from the Army, he worked for APi Group and for General Dynamics Land Systems. In this interview, he talks about his childhood, his West Point experiences, and his Army career. He shares stories about surviving academics at the Prep School and playing 150s (Sprint) Football at the Academy. He reflects on leadership lessons he learned along the way, highlighting mentors he served with throughout his career. He describes, in depth, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the role his battalion played. Finally, he reflects on what his service and West Point mean to him.


name Ernest P. "Rock" Marcone
institution USMA
graduation year 1986
service Infantry / Armor
unit 2nd BN, 1st IN, 9th ID; D CO & HHC, 3rd BN, 37th AR, 1st ID; 1st BN, 63rd AR, 1st ID; TF 3-69 AR, 3rd ID
specialty Company TAC I-2
service dates 1986 2006