Friday, May 18, 2007

Perspective: 'It's about never leaving a fallen comrade'

Above: A soldier from the 10th Mountain Division walks through tall grass during the search for three missing soldiers today. Joseph Anzack, Byron Fouty, and Alex Jimenez are listed as 'Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown', and are believed by the military to be in the hands of an al-Qaeda affiliated group.

RUSHDI MULLAH, IRAQ — A man with his hand blown off. A soldier's equipment strewn across a field. A child's vague recollections. They are pieces of a puzzle that U.S. military officials are working with as they search for three missing soldiers and the people responsible for their disappearance.

By Thursday, the sixth day of the hunt, the wear was showing, not just on the soldiers obsessed with finding their comrades but also on the hamlets that dot the region southwest of Baghdad, which is blessed with groves of elegant date palms and riddled with pro-Al Qaeda insurgents.

Hundreds of local men have been detained for questioning, leaving women, children and legions of ferociously barking dogs in charge of Iraqi towns such as Rushdi Mullah, a community of 86 households under a virtual siege by troops looking for their buddies. At the U.S. military posts throughout the region, thousands of soldiers have vowed to hunt until the missing are found, even though the task has diverted troops needed to enforce a U.S.-Iraqi security clampdown in Baghdad.

"It's not about resources. It's about an ethos. It's about who we are as people," said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Avanulas Smiley, commander of a Stryker brigade that has been drawn into the search. "It's about never leaving a fallen comrade. That may sound cliche, but it's true."

Read the rest at the LA Times