By Tom Mustin

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – After more than three decades as a soldier, Lt. Col. Mitch Utterback is now pursuing a graduate degree in journalism at the University of Colorado. He just returned from Iraq, where he documented the Iraqi Army’s bloody struggle against ISIS.

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“Suicide car bomb, just five minutes ago. This is the front line,” Utterback says in one video.

Utterback is back in Colorado after reporting from the front lines in Mosul, Iraq.

Mitch Utterback (credit: CBS)

Mitch Utterback (credit: CBS)

“We’d rather fight them over there than fight them in the streets here,” he told CBS4’s Tom Mustin.

The Army Special Forces veteran retired from the military after 33 years, and is now getting a masters in journalism from CU. He volunteered to return to Mosul for his graduate thesis.

Utterback spoke to CBS4 from the CU campus after just returning from two weeks working with Iraqi Counter Terrorism, alone, inside the bloody battle lines.

Fighting in Iraq (credit: CBS)

Fighting in Iraq (credit: CBS)

“With my own eyes I’ve witnessed war crimes committed by ISIS, targeting civilians walking to government forces under a white flag, and ISIS launches mortars and kills men women and children,” he said.

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After three months of heavy fighting, Iraqi forces are slowly retaking the city from ISIS fighters. Utterback’s video shows smoke from suicide bombers and the sound of gunfire — grim reminders of a ruthless opponent.

“ISIS is using human shields. They’ll hold a kid in their arms to cross the street.”

In one clip, terrified civilians wave white flags while running to freedom. Utterback showed CBS4 captured ISIS flags and propaganda papers. He says the Iraqi military is doing important work in taking back the city.

Mitch Utterback (credit: CBS)

Mitch Utterback (credit: CBS)

U.S. dollars and weapons have contributed greatly. Now tens of thousands of Iraqis have been liberated after two years of oppressive rule.

“To travel to Mosul and be on a street where people were opening the gates of their yard for the first time in two years, stepping out into freedom, it was incredibly powerful.”

Now Utterback is hoping to become a foreign correspondent. He says he’ll bring the same commitment and insight he had as a soldier to the field of journalism.

“Life is more satisfying when you’re serving a cause greater than yourself.”

Utterback served three tours in Afghanistan and one in Iraq before retiring. He will graduate from CU in May.

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Tom Mustin is CBS4’s Weekend Anchor. He has been with CBS4 since 2002, and is always looking for great story ideas. Connect with Tom on Facebook or follow him on Twitter @TomCBS4.