Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kile Grant West reported killed in Iraq

An Army lieutenant with ties to Pasadena was one of 10 American servicemen killed on Memorial Day in Iraq.

Army 2nd Lt. Kile Grant West was killed when the Bradley fighting vehicle he commanded hit an improvised explosive device as he and his crew were trying to rescue soldiers in a downed helicopter, said his uncle Gary West, of Pasadena.

Kile West and his crew were killed, as were two soldiers in the downed helicopter, his uncle said on Tuesday.

West, 23, who grew up in Pasadena, had been looking forward to a scheduled two-week leave next month to visit family in Texas. The December 2005 Stephen F. Austin University graduate was planning to return to the United States on June 15.

An outdoorsman, Kile West had asked his father and uncle to check out a shotgun he could buy while here.

"We had already gone and looked at one for him to buy. He liked to bird hunt and deer hunt," Gary West said. The shotgun his nephew wanted was for bird hunting.

Gary West said his nephew had always planned to join the military.

"Kile wanted to be a soldier his whole life. I was a soldier, and his grandfather was a soldier in World War II. He just wanted to do that. He would watch the military channel on TV all the time. He wanted to go to college to be an officer in the Army. He died doing what he wanted to do," the uncle said.

West, who graduated from Hutto High School in Central Texas in 2001, was deployed to Iraq in October.

He is survived by his father and stepmother, Clark Grady West and Melissa West, of Pasadena; his mother, Nanette West, of Round Rock, and two younger sisters.

From the Houston Chronicle

Matthew Bean reported to have died at Bethesda of wounds suffered when shot by a sniper

A Pembroke soldier who survived two IED blasts in Iraq only to be gunned down by a sniper during house-to-house searches for his missing comrades died yesterday after he was removed from life support Wednesday in Maryland, just days after President Bush visited him and other soldiers in the hospital.

Army Pfc. Matthew Bean, 22, a 2003 graduate of Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston, was part of the 10th Mountain Division. He was shot in the head May 19 while he and his unit were searching for Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 23, of Lawrence, and another soldier missing since the Americans were abducted by insurgents last month.

“They were looking for their buddy, kicking doors in,” said George Bean, of Macon, Mo., the soldier’s uncle. “He wasn’t afraid of doing his job.”

Last Friday, President Bush stopped and talked with the family and spent a few moments at Bean’s bedside, said the family’s minister, the Rev. Paul Atwater.

“I was told that on Friday morning President Bush met with him and pinned a medal on him,” Atwater said. The White House Web site notes that during Bush’s visit he awarded Purple Hearts to Americans wounded in combat.

George Bean said his nephew suffered significant injuries to the left side of his head and was non-responsive after the attack. Bean survived the injury long enough to be flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where his family was at his side Wednesday when he was removed from life support, his uncle said.

“He got a couple awards while he was over there,” George Bean said. “They were proud of him being over there.”

Bean’s grandmother answered the phone at the family’s home yesterday and said his parents were expected home last night.

After a brief stint in college Bean joined the Army as an artilleryman, but when he arrived in Iraq he was reassigned to the 10th Mountain Division, his uncle said.

From the Boston Herald

Alexander Rosa Jr. dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

When Alex Rosa Jr. realized he was going to be a dad, he purchased baby books and read them into a tape recorder. He wanted his infant daughter to get used to his voice while he was stationed in Iraq.

In Army Spc. Rosa's usual clownlike manner, he brought each book to life. He described what filled the book's pages and made the appropriate noises to tell the whole story, such as a pig's oink.

Those recordings were supposed to be a temporary substitute for the real thing. Now they are his legacy.

Rosa, 22, was killed Friday in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle. His daughter, Ellie, is only a month old. His wife, Melissa, is a widow just eight months after marriage.

"He did not want to be in Iraq," his aunt, Elizabeth Mendez-Soto of Winter Park, said Tuesday. "But he said he had to go back, that it was his job."

Rosa was a Brooklyn, N.Y., native and an avid Mets fan. He lived for the simple things in life: making strangers smile, ice cream, face-painting with his niece, a cold Heineken and yukking it up with friends. The Boone High School graduate was also a music junkie, wearing headphones so often that he snapped a picture of his newborn sporting them too. He was allowed to return for her birth in April.

And Rosa was a man of his word, even in the strangest of situations.

While stationed in Korea, a friend gave him a wooden statue to take with him. She asked him to snap pictures with it when he traveled back to the States. And he did. In the rain. In New York. Out having fun with friends.

"Everywhere he went, he had that damn statue," his aunt said, turning photograph after photograph of the slender figurine.

He was a tall, muscular guy, a distinctive mix of his Irish and Puerto Rican backgrounds. He had a scar through his right eyebrow, a reminder of his clumsier years as a kid. He always wore a goofy grin.

"He was always looking to have a good time, always in the middle of everything," Mendez-Soto said. "You would meet him and love him."

And his unit did.

"For everyone that knew Alex Rosa, it's hard to say his name without cracking at least a giggle. He was always the 'joker' but also very proficient in his daily duties in the Army," Ben Graham wrote on his own MySpace page. He and Rosa, assigned to the 293rd Military Police Company, were based at Fort Stewart together.

Rosa's mother, Jeanette, formerly of Orlando, and his wife, who also was in the military, had moved to Georgia so they could be close to Rosa's base.

The Department of Defense reported Monday that he was stationed at a base in Texas. Army officials Tuesday could not explain the discrepancy.

Rosa died wearing a St. Valentine medallion his wife gave him with their initials inscribed on the back. He was the same age as his father -- and namesake -- when his father was murdered.

"He was a baby when his father died, just like his daughter is now," Mendez-Soto said.

Family members worked Tuesday to grant Rosa's final wish: to be buried in something other than his Army fatigues. They picked out a suit and tennis shoes for him.

He will be laid to rest in New York, where he had hoped to become a police officer.

"You will NEVER be forgotten, and will ALWAYS hold a special place in our hearts," Graham wrote. "Please be there on all of our shoulders as we finish our missions in Iraq."

From the Orlando Sentinel

Mark R. C. Caguioa dies at Bethesda 'of wounds suffered on May 4 in Baghdad, Iraq, when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device'

WASHINGTON D.C. — Corporal Mark Ryan Climaco Caguioa, 21, died Thursday, May 24, at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland., after receiving a wrong blood transfusion in Iraq while being treated for severe wounds he suffered from an improvised explosive device south of Baghdad on May 4.

Nate Ramirez, a medical worker at the Bethesda center, said that, while being treated in Iraq, Caguioa had received six units of type O+ blood. He was a B+.

Caguioa’s grandfather, Arthur Climaco, and mother, Maria Lourdes Climaco, kept watch over him at the hospital. (Caguioa will be remembered at Arlington National Cemetery, the resting place of American heroes, with a marker bearing his name but his remains will be buried at the Presidio in San Francisco, a soldier’s cemetery steeped in history. He was born to Filipino immigrants. Caguioa would have turned 22 on June 1. He died on the eve of the American Memorial Day.)

People familiar with the Filipino American’s case expressed concern that military medical personnel are becoming more prone to mistakes because of the strain of dealing with mounting casualties in Iraq.

They also expressed worry that this situation – along with the botched transfusion – could be covered up. Their concerns follow several widely publicized cases of government misinformation regarding soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, notably the cases of Cpl. Pat Tillman and Pvt. Jessica Lynch.

“They’re getting sloppy," one medical worker said. “They’re getting tired." He added that “the whole system" is under strain because there are “so many casualties"...

Caguioa’s death came a day before President George W. Bush visited the National Naval Medical Center to pay respects to wounded soldiers ahead of the Memorial Day weekend, a time when the nation honors the contributions of America’s men and women in Combat.

His family decided to end life-support when his organs failed and the damage from the bad blood transfusion could not be reversed. One source familiar with the case said Caguioa might have been able to survive his wounds if not for the botched procedure.

Cpl. Caguioa hailed from Stockton, California. He graduated from Bear Creek High School in 2002 and joined the U.S. Army in 2005 while at San Joaquin Delta College. Serving with the Second Brigade, First Cavalry Division, Caguioa was deployed in October 2006 for a 14-month tour. He was the eldest of four siblings.

From GMA News

Joseph M. Weiglein dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'

AUDUBON - In his last e-mail to best friend Mike Nolan, Staff Sgt. Joseph Michael Weiglein assured his friend that things were calming down in Iraq.

Weiglein, in Iraq since August, was stationed somewhere near an airport in Bagdad, where he and his unit had taken over a warehouse and made it into a barracks.

The e-mail came May 26. Three days later, Weiglein was killed, Nolan said.

Now, the close-knit community of Audubon is mourning the loss of one of its own.

Weiglein, 31, was killed Tuesday in Ilbu Falris, Iraq, by an improvised explosive device while on patrol, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. A second soldier, from Honolulu, was also killed.

Weiglein was with the 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.

Reached at home, in Audubon, Weiglein's mother said she was too upset to talk. Nolan said news of his friend's death is just sinking in for the family and that his wife was on her way to New Jersey to be with his parents and two sisters.

Teachers and administrators in the Audubon School District remember Weiglein as a well-like student who was responsible and respectful to others.

Weiglein was a 1994 graduate of Audubon High School. His mother was a long-time school board member, serving from 1981-1989.

"He was also very fun to be around," said Borden, who was his history teacher at Audubon High School. "He was the boy next door. He surely will be missed."

Haviland Elementary School, which Weiglein attended, adopted him last year at Nolan's suggestion. Mike Nolan's mother, Joan, is a secretary at the school.

Weiglein's unit received letters and a box of Tastycakes, beef jerky, Christmas ornaments, cards, etc., from the Haviland students.

"He makes what's going on in Iraq a much more personal thing," said Haviland principal Carleene Slowik.

In January, Weiglein visited the school while on leave, meeting the children and answering their questions.

Weiglein did not leave until every last question was answered, the principal said.

Slowik, who talked to Weiglein recently, said that he felt bad that the men had not been able to write to her students lately, but said they had been on assignment and unable to e-mail.

Slowik sent home a letter to her students' parents on Tuesday, notifying them of Weiglein's death and providing advice on helping their children grieve.

Haviland is planning a tribute in Weiglein's memory but is waiting for word from his wife as to what she would type of tribute she would like.

Mike Nolan said he and Weiglein have been friends since they were 2 years old, when the Weiglein family moved in across the street from his home.

They have been best friends ever since.

As kids, the two swam, played soccer and were members of the high school golf team. They were always together no matter what activity they were involved in, Nolan said..

When they graduated from high school, Nolan said they chose different paths: Nolan went off to college and Weiglein joined the military.

Weiglein was working as a military recruiter in Tennessee when he decided he was needed more on the battlefields than sitting behind a desk, Nolan said.

"He made a choice to be in Iraq," Nolan said.

Weiglein had been married for 4“ years. He and his wife, Jennifer, had no children, Nolan said.

Weiglein was a die-hard Eagles fan and when he came home for a three-week leave in January, Nolan, Weiglein and his wife attended the Eagles-Giants playoff game.

Nolan said they kept in touch mainly through e-mail, communicating three to four times a week when Weiglein was stateside.

In their last e-mail, Nolan expressed concern for his best friend's safety.

"He was a great friend and a great soldier," Nolan said. "He touched so many people's lives."

From the Courier Post

Richard V. Correa dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'

A 25-year-old soldier from Honolulu was killed Tuesday by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

The Pentagon identified the soldier as Sgt. Richard V. Correa.

He and another soldier, 31-year-old Staff Sgt. Joseph M. Weiglein from New Jersey, were killed while on foot patrol in Ilbu Falris. The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 14th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), based at Fort Drum, N.Y.

A Fort Drum spokeswoman said Correa enlisted in the Army in November 2000 and was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in October 2005.

He is single.

Correa’s unit deployed to Iraq in August 2006 and its year-long tour also has been extended for three months. Correa was a squad leader, according to a news release from Fort Drum.

His awards include the Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal as well as several other Army and Air Force awards.

Since the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003, 56 soldiers, three sailors, 79 Marines, one Air Force personnel and one civilian with Hawaii ties have been killed there.

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Tuck (Theodore U.) Church dies of 'wounds suffered when his OH-58D Kiowa helicopter crashed after receiving heavy enemy fire during combat operations'

SOUTH POINT, Ohio -- A U.S. Army helicopter pilot from the South Point area was killed on Memorial Day when his helicopter crashed after coming under heavy enemy fire in Iraq.

The pilot was identified as Chief Warrant Officer Theodore "Tuck" U. Church, 32, of South Point, according to an announcement this afternoon by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Church and his wife, Mindi, both are South Point High School graduates, according to Marilyn Bradley of Chesapeake, Mindi's grandmother. Church was stationed in Hawaii and on his third tour to the Middle East. The Churches have been married for 12 years and have two children.

"It's very, very hard right now," Bradley said Thursday night. "He was very well respected by his men. He was a very honorable young man."

"It's a shock," said her husband, John Bradley. "He was such a nice guy. He's a great father. He's just real nice."

Church was in the U.S. Navy for four years and spent the last eight years in the U.S. Army.

"He was a wonderful person," said Donna Newman of Chesapeake.

"We saw him last summer," Marilyn Bradley said. "They were scheduled to come home in July or August."

"We don't know if he'll be buried here or in Arlington," she said.

From the Herald Dispatch

Keith N. Heidtman dies 'wounds suffered when his OH-58D Kiowa helicopter crashed after receiving heavy enemy fire during combat operations'

Norwich — Enemy fire caused a helicopter crash Monday that killed a Norwich man and his co-pilot in Muqdadiyah, Iraq, a senior U.S. military official said Wednesday.

Brig. Gen. Perry Wiggins, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military believes small-arms fire brought down a helicopter piloted by Army 1st Lt. Keith Neal Heidtman of Norwich and Chief Warrant Officer Theodore U. Church of Ohio, who died from wounds suffered in the crash. They were assigned to the 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, based at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.

The day after learning Heidtman had been killed in Iraq was a somber one for the 24-year-old's family and friends.

“Well, quite frankly, we are struggling,” said Chris Heidtman, the soldier's uncle, who is serving as the family's spokesman. “The second day is a littler harder. The reality is starting to set in.”

Heidtman said the family has been assigned a military liaison who is assisting with making arrangements to bring Keith Heidtman's body home.

“The fact that everyone is distraught is a testament to what kind of guy Keith was,” Chris Heidtman said. “He was such a wonderful man.”

Heidtman was one of 10 U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq on Monday, eight from Task Force Lightning, the military reported. As of late Wednesday, there were at least 119 U.S. deaths in Iraq thus far in May, with one day left in the month, according to the Associated Press.

Heidtman was deployed in November, sent to Hawaii, then to Kuwait. He arrived in Iraq in December for his first tour of duty. He was scheduled to come home for leave in July.

He was a 2001 graduate of Norwich Free Academy and a 2005 graduate of the University of Connecticut. The son of Kerry Heidtman and Maureen Robidoux, he spent his high school years living with his mother and stepfather, Arthur Robidoux, at the family's home at 133 Scotland Road.

Keith Heidtman had trained as a helicopter pilot at the U.S. Army Aviation Warfighting Center at Fort Rucker, Ala. He had graduated from the UConn ROTC program as a “distinguished military graduate,” his family said.

Mark Cohan, who became head of school after Heidtman graduated from NFA, said the school is reeling over the news of his death. Another former NFA student, Army Spc. Jacob Martir, was killed in Iraq in August 2004.

“It feels terrible to have such a young person die,” said Cohan. “People here are still dealing with it now.”

Cohan said the school plans to memorialize Heidtman but does not have a specific plan in place. “We definitely want to do something,” he said. “It's going to take some time to put something together.”

John Iovino, baseball coach and director of student affairs, said the mood on campus is somber, especially for those on the faculty who knew Heidtman.

“It certainly is a great loss,” said Iovino. “Keith was a terrific young man. I knew him as a little kid. I looked forward for him to coming to the high school. It's a tremendous sense of loss for all of us.”

Hugh Campbell, principal of Tirrell House at NFA, said he knew Heidtman since Heidtman was about 8 or 9 years old, when Tirrell and Iovino ran a summer baseball camp in Norwich. He said he learned of Heidtman's death from Iovino on Tuesday, adding he knew something was wrong because Iovino had a very somber expression.

“I was in the cafeteria, and I had to excuse myself,” Campbell said. “It was a shock yesterday.”

Campbell said Heidtman showed great athletic talent even at an early age.

“He was a standout all through Little League,” Campbell said.

Campbell coached baseball at NFA for 27 years, until 2005. He said Heidtman was a three-year varsity player who played first base and outfield.

Heidtman also played for three years on the basketball team. He made All Conference in his third year.

“He was a quiet leader,” Campbell said. “He never brought attention to himself. He came to practice and worked hard.”

Campbell said he wrote a college recommendation letter for Heidtman on Oct. 23, 2000. In that letter, Campbell wrote that Heidtman represents everything that is right with young people today.

“He brings the whole package to the table every day,” Campbell said he wrote. “He is a gentleman, a scholar and a fine athlete. His work ethic is second to none.”

Campbell said Heidtman would leave a legacy at NFA.

“I hope he is never forgotten,” he said.

From the Day

Charles B. Hester dies 'of wounds suffered when the vehicle he was in struck an improvised explosive device'

BREMERTON, Wash. -- The Bremerton family of a Fort Lewis soldier said he volunteered for the job that led to his death in Iraq over the weekend.

Charles Hester, 23, was the driver in a Stryker Combat Team that was hit by an explosive last Saturday. He was the only one in his unit killed.

Hester grew up in Bremerton and joined the Army to take care of his wife and daughter, his family said.

His family said he embraced his job and volunteered for hazardous duties.

"He is the most precious thing we could have given to the country," said his father, also named Charles.

"I don't know the circumstances of the roadside bomb that hit his vehicle, but I've heard that the rest of his guys got out. Knowing Charlie, if he could have done something to put himself in the line and save the other guys, he would have done that. He was that type of person," his father said.

Hester had been in Iraq for a year.

Besides his parents, Hester is survived by his wife, his 3-year-old daughter, his brother and two sisters.

From KIRO 7

Clayton G. Dunn dies 'of wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle'

Clayton G. Dunn II's passion was running. He was a track star in high school and ran in college. And after he joined the Army, he often talked about running.

During his senior year at Rialto High School in 2003, he set the Division I Citrus Belt League record in the 1,600-meter race. That record still stands, said his former track coach, Marie Albert.

On Saturday, Sgt. Dunn, 22, of Moreno Valley, and two other soldiers were killed when an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle, while they were on patrol in Salah ad-Din province in Iraq.

Sgt. Dunn was a fire-team leader with the 2nd Battalion, 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, home-based in Fort Bragg, N.C.

Also killed were Spc. Michael J. Jaurigue, 20, of Texas City, Texas; and Spc. Gregory N. Millard, 22, of San Diego.

Sgt. Dunn was a 2003 Rialto High School graduate. During his time on the school's track team, he served as a leader and a source of encouragement, said his friend Buddy Rogers, 19, of San Bernardino.

"He inspired me to keep running. I wanted to quit so many times," Rogers said. "Now I hold the 800(-meter Citrus Belt League) record. If it weren't for him, I never would have run that race."

Albert said Sgt. Dunn was a quiet, polite student, but one who wasn't shy about taking charge during practice and competition.

"The other kids respected him," Albert said. "He motivated his teammates to work hard in practice, and they were friends outside of practice. He was an all-around good person, and he will be deeply missed."

Sgt. Dunn was a 2003 nominee for the Ken Hubbs Award, which honors top male athletes from all high schools in San Bernardino. One athlete from each school is nominated.

From the Press Enterprise

Thomas M. McFall dies 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'

A former Glendora resident and Army soldier was killed on Memorial Day in Baghdad, military officials said Wednesday.

Staff Sgt. Thomas M. McFall, 36, died Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a "dismounted patrol" in the Iraqi capital, according to a statement issued by officials at Fort Lewis, Wash., where McFall was based.

Also killed in the blast was 20-year-old Cpl. Junior Cedeno Sanchez of Miami. The two soldiers were assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Records indicate that McFall's family lived on the 1300 block of Westridge Avenue in Glendora in the early 1990s. But McFall's wife, Emily McFall, said he always considered Riverside home.

"He joined the service quite a while ago, in 1994; he never mentioned Glendora," said Emily McFall, speaking by telephone from the family home in Tacoma, Wash.

Emily McFall said her husband leaves behind a son and two daughters. She issued a written statement in which she described Thomas as a gregarious man who could start up a conversation with anyone and who loved barbecuing, beer and classic rock.

"Somehow, he always took over the barbecue, even if it was someone else's house," read the statement. "He was the `BBQ King. \ the best ribs."

She said he loved the service and would have spent 13 years in the Army this October.

"We opened our house to many for Christmas and Thanksgiving, so his soldiers would not be alone for the holidays," said Emily McFall. "When many would \ he would say to them, `it's the easiest job in the world."'

McFall earned numerous awards and decorations during his 13-year military career, according to Ft. Lewis officials, including three Army Commendation medals and four Army Achievement medals. He served tours in South Korea and Afghanistan, and was deployed to Iraq in April.

From the San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Robert A. Liggett dies of 'from injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident'

A 2003 Rock Island High School graduate is dead in Iraq.

Pfc. Robert A. Liggett, 23, died Tuesday of injuries 'suffered in a non-combat related incident,' the Department of Defense said Thursday. His death is under investigation, the DoD said.

His father, M. J. Liggett, of Urbana, confirmed his son's death but declined to talk with a reporter Thursday evening. 'You can call tomorrow,' he said.

The Army said Pfc. Liggett was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga.

At Rocky, Mr. Liggett was a member of Junior ROTC. The quotation he included with his senior picture in the 2003 yearbook was, "This above all to thine own self be true." -- Shakespeare.

Television station WTVN in Columbus Ga., home town to Fort Benning, reported that, "According to Liggett's website he loved NASCAR and often wrote his own poetry."

A poem by Robert A. Liggett:


The eagle is free.

Free to go



in search

of food

and to fish

Without Higher authorities

saying "you can't do this

or that."

I want to be free,

Free as the Eagle on

the wind

From the Quad Cities Dispatch

Junior Cedeno Sanchez dies of 'wounds suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near his position during a dismounted patrol'

A 20-year-old soldier from Miami-Dade County this week became the 37th person in the military from South Florida to die since 9-11.

Army Pfc. Junior Cedeno Sanchez was killed on Monday, Memorial Day, when a makeshift bomb detonated near his patrol in Baghdad, according to a Department of Defense statement. The soldiers were on a combat security mission in the southern section of the Iraqi capital, officials said.

Neighbors in Miami-Dade's Country Walk subdivision, Cedeno's last known residence, said the family had moved out about a month ago and returned to Puerto Rico. Attempts to reach family members there were unsuccessful.

Also killed in the blast was Staff Sgt. Thomas McFall, 36, of Glendora, Calif.

The men were assigned to the Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, out of Fort Lewis, Wash.

From the Sun Sentinel

Perspective: Faced with a surge of death, some Army posts to end individual memorials

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) mourn at a memorial at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah for Sgt. Justin Wisniewski, a squad leader with the 2-15 out of Fort Drum. Wisniewski was killed May 19 by an IED while searching on foot for soldiers missing since a May 12th attack.

Soldiers from Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Drum, N.Y., who are killed in combat will be honored during monthly group memorials instead of individual services beginning in June.

At Fort Lewis, the decision was announced in a May 22 e-mail from Brig. Gen. William Troy, the acting commanding general of I Corps and Fort Lewis, to the command and staff on post, said Joe Piek, a Fort Lewis spokesman. The first group memorial is expected to take place the third week of June.

“As much as we would like to think otherwise, I am afraid that with the number of soldiers we now have in harm’s way, our losses will preclude us from continuing to do individual memorial ceremonies,” Troy wrote in his e-mail. “I see this as a way of sharing the heavy burdens our spouses and rear detachments bear, while giving our fallen warriors the respect they deserve. It will also give the families of the fallen the opportunity to bond with one another, as they see others who share their grief.”

Group memorial services already are taking place at other Army posts, Piek said.

Read the rest at Army Times

Perspective: On This Day In Iraq -- May 31st edition

May 31, 2005: A soldier ties a chain around a palm tree to remove it after finding 30mm rounds, single tips, and shells hidden at the base of the palm located near a local farm in Hasawa. The rounds are suspected to have been used in the mortar attacks on Forward Operating Base Kalsu.

May 31, 2002:

US right questions Saudi ties

It is now 12 years since American troops were sent to the Gulf following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos is one of many on the Hill increasingly bitter that the Saudis are not more grateful for America's protection:

"The United States saved the House of Saud. Had we not done so, the House of Saud today would be a villa on the French Riviera rather than an important country in the region," he said.

In a long litany of complaints against the Saudis, Mr Lantos headlines their treatment of women.

He recalls an anecdote about the recent visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to President Bush's ranch in Texas: "During his recent visit, the Crown Prince, approaching his landing target in Texas, apparently had the plane call for a male air traffic controller to guide the plane down," he said.

President Bush himself went out of his way to offer a friendly Texas greeting to Crown Prince Abdullah.

But the rest of America cannot get over the prominent role of Saudis in the 11 September hijackings.

Right-wingers in Washington - and they are very influential in this administration - want things to change.

William Kristol, editor of the magazine The Weekly Standard, is one such right-winger. He says the US needs to rethink its relationship with Riyadh.

"For we are now at war - a war with terror and a war with terror's main sponsor in the world, radical Islam," he says.

"And in this war the Saudi regime is more part of the problem than part of the solution."

The former CIA director, James Wolsey, even argues for America to work for more fuel efficient cars in order to reduce dependence on Saudi oil - and that is almost a sacrilege on the right of American politics.

Mr Wolsey calls for helping the Russians to produce more oil and for gradually pulling out of Saudi military bases.

"As a general matter, I believe these three steps or steps like them, taken toward reducing our reliance on the Saudis, reducing our reliance on their bases, reducing our reliance on their oil, are very much in the security interests of the United States."

Read the rest at BBC News

May 31, 2003:

Tenet Defends Iraq Intelligence

CIA Director George J. Tenet took the unusual step yesterday of publicly defending the agency's intelligence on Iraq's possession of chemical and biological weapons, amid growing criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated what it knew about Iraqi weapons programs to advance the case for going to war.

The statement by Tenet was a rarity for a director of Central Intelligence, who normally does not react publicly to criticism about intelligence matters except during testimony before Congress. It underscored the ferment building within intelligence agencies because U.S. forces in Iraq so far have not uncovered any proscribed weapons.

Three complaints have been filed with the CIA ombudsman about the administration's possible politicization of intelligence on Iraq, an intelligence official said. He would not describe the substance of the complaints.

One senior administration official said CIA analysts have complained they felt pressured by administration policymakers who questioned them before the war about their assessment of Iraq's arms programs.

"Our role is to call it like we see it, to tell policymakers what we know, what we don't know, what we think, and what we base it on," Tenet said in a statement released by the CIA. "The integrity of our process was maintained throughout and any suggestion to the contrary is simply wrong."

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 31, 2004:

Where Does Iraq Stand Among U.S. Wars?

With more than 800 U.S. military personnel killed and more than 4,600 wounded, U.S. casualties in Iraq over the past 14 months now compare to those of several of the smaller wars in the nation's history.

In total casualties -- that is, combined dead and wounded -- the U.S. military now has suffered more in Iraq than in the Spanish-American War. The wounded tally in Iraq -- but not the death total -- has surpassed the figures for the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.

Some military historians and other specialists are beginning to see the Iraq campaign as at least as significant as those other conflicts in its impact on the nation's politics and public opinion.

"Iraq began as an intervention, has now become a minor war and stands to become a medium war as time passes," said Kalev Sepp, a former Special Forces officer who teaches defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School.

"The Iraq war is a genuine minor war in the American experience," said James Burk, a military sociologist at Texas A&M University and one of the nation's leading experts on the impact of military casualties on public opinion.

By that, Burk said, he meant that it has become "at least the equal of the Mexican War and Spanish-American War in its capacity to make or break political leaders and eventually to affect who Americans think they are in the world."

With the Iraq war still going on, it is impossible to predict how historians and the rest of the American public will ultimately regard it. Burk and others warn that if the pace of casualties in Iraq keeps up, the war's impact on American life could become more like that of the Vietnam War than of those earlier conflicts.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

May 31, 2005:

Iraq insurgency in 'last throes,' Cheney says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The insurgency in Iraq is "in the last throes," Vice President Dick Cheney says, and he predicts that the fighting will end before the Bush administration leaves office.

In a wide-ranging interview Monday on CNN's "Larry King Live," Cheney cited the recent push by Iraqi forces to crack down on insurgent activity in Baghdad and reports that the most-wanted terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been wounded.

The vice president said he expected the war would end during President Bush's second term, which ends in 2009.

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time," Cheney said. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Read the rest at CNN

May 31, 2006:

Bush sends 1,500 more troops to Iraq and dashes hopes of withdrawal

The US said yesterday it had sent combat troop reinforcements into Iraq, dashing hopes of a substantial withdrawal, as American commanders scrambled to contain a wave of violence and help the new Iraqi government assert control.

About 1,500 soldiers from a reserve force based in Kuwait were deployed in Anbar province, an insurgent stronghold stretching from Baghdad to the Syrian border. The deployment was described officially as "short-term". Military officials quoted anonymously yesterday said it should last no more than four months, but it was a blow to the Bush administration's hopes of bringing troops home after the formation of the new government in Baghdad. There were about 130,000 US troops in Iraq before the deployment and that figure is unlikely to change for several months, military officials said.

Read the rest at the Guardian

Security Summary: May 31, 2007

Neighbors gather near a damaged car today in Sadr City. A U.S. military helicopter hit a house and the car early Thursday killing two elderly people sleeping on the roof of their home according to police.

FALLUJA - A suicide bomber killed 20 people and wounded 20 others when he blew himself up next to a police recruitment centre in Falluja, 50 km (35 miles) west of Baghdad, police and hospital officials said. The U.S. military said one policeman was killed.

RAMADI - A suicide truck bomber killed five people and wounded 15 in Ramadi, 110 km (70 miles) west of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Two U.S. soldiers were killed and two wounded by a roadside bomb while they were conducting combat operations in southwestern Baghdad on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - A U.S. soldier wounded in a roadside bomb attack in northwestern Baghdad on Monday died of his wounds on Tuesday, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Eight U.S. soldiers were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a checkpoint in Adamiya in northern Baghdad, the U.S. military said. Three Iraqi civilians, including a child, were also hurt.

BAGHDAD - U.S. and Iraqi forces detained two people believed to be members of a secret network suspected of moving deadly roadside bombs and other weapons from Iran to Iraq, during a raid in Sadr City in northeastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen attacked a police commando patrol, killing a policeman and wounding three others in the Jihad district of southwestern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded three policemen in al-Khadhra district in western Baghdad, police said.

TIKRIT - Police killed one gunman and arrested two others after attacking their patrol in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

MOSUL - Mosul city mortuary received the bodies of five men, including three Iraqi soldiers, in the northern city of Mosul, a hospital source said.

ISKANDARIYA - Gunmen attacked the house of Ubaid al-Masoudi, a tribal leader, injuring him and his wife in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol wounded four policemen on the road between Sinjar and Tal Afar, 420 km (260 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

TAL AFAR - A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed an officer and wounded another soldier in Tal Afar, police said.

TAL AFAR - One man was killed in a rocket attack in Tal Afar, police said.

From Reuters/Alternet

Odierno: 'Of course I have hope' on finding 2 missing soldiers, but 'As time goes on, it gets tougher. And that’s the bottom line...'

Still Missing: There was no word today on the search for Alex Jimenez, left, and Byron Fouty, front center. Both are listed as 'Duty Status: Whereabouts Unknown' following a May 12th attack. Left: A yellow ribbon tied round a tree at Byron Fouty's former high school.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said... he’s still optimistic about the success of an intensive search for two soldiers still missing following an ambush south of Baghdad nearly three weeks ago.

“Of course I have hope,” Odierno said. “We continue to get tips. We continue to go after them aggressively as we get them.”

But, he admitted, “As time goes on, it gets tougher. And that’s the bottom line. ... But we’re not going to give up, and we will stay very focused on trying to find those great young men.”

Read the rest at Army Times

May toll for U.S. soldiers in Iraq climbs to 122

Soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) place mementos in front of the boots and rifle memorial at Forward Operating Base Mahmudiyah for Sgt. Justin Wisniewski, a squad leader with the 2-15. Wisniewski was killed May 19 by an IED while searching on foot for soldiers missing since a May 12th attack.

The U.S. military reported three more deaths in Iraq on Thursday, taking the death toll to 122 for May, already the worst month for U.S. forces there in more than two years.

May is the third-worst month overall in the campaign for U.S. soldiers, behind November 2004, when 137 soldiers died, and April 2004, when 135 were killed.

A total of 3,473 U.S. soldiers have been killed since the start of the invasion in March 2003.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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Two-month troop total deadliest since Fallujah, 2004

Report: Abducted Britons being moved frequently, may be offered for prisoner exchange

The U.S.-run Camp Bucca detention center.

The five Britons captured in Iraq could be used as bargaining tools to secure the release of hundreds of Shia prisoners of war being held in Basra, it was disclosed last night.

A senior official in the Mahdi army militia told The Daily Telegraph that the captives - four security guards and a computer expert - had been taken to put pressure on Tony Blair and George Bush.

"We are holding the British until they release our brothers from Camp Bucca in Basra," the cell commander said. "There are hundreds there under British security, some of them for years. When they are released the British will be allowed to go."

Hundreds of US and Iraqi troops carried out raids yesterday in Sadr City - the Baghdad Shia suburb which is a Mahdi army stronghold - as more information about the kidnap became clear.

Immediately after the Britons were snatched from a finance ministry building in Baghdad on Tuesday, they were driven to a "hostage holding" centre near Sadr City's Mudafra Square, from where they were expected to be moved frequently to avoid detection.

Read the rest at the Telegraph

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Report: Britain assembles elite special force to hunt for kidnapped

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Sadr City police report two non-combatants killed in Sadr City airstrike during search for kidnapped Britons

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Report: Sadr City sealed off for second night in search for Britons; Petraeus says Mahdi Army 'will be profoundly sorry' if involved

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U.S. launches large-scale night raids in search for kidnapped Britons; Armored vehicles reported to repeatedly breach walls of houses

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Turkish General: Army prepared to attack in Iraq

Above: Motorized artillery loaded aboard a transport train station in southeastern Turkey on their way to Turkey's border with Iraq.

ANKARA, Turkey: Turkey's top general said Thursday his army — which has been massing troops on the border with Iraq — was prepared to attack separatist Kurdish guerrillas in a cross-border offensive and accused Turkey's allies of supporting the rebels.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit said the military was ready and awaiting government orders for an incursion, putting pressure on the government to support an offensive that risks straining ties with the United States and sparking tensions with Iraqi Kurds...

Any military deployment would require parliamentary approval. Public support for an offensive is high, especially following the recent killings of soldiers and a suicide bombing that killed six people and that authorities blamed on the rebels.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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Report: 45% of deaths in southern Iraq caused by cancer

Above: A Marine preps an artillery round to be fired during a fire mission in Hit in February. The U.S. military uses 'depleted uranium' for defensive armor plate and armor-piercing munitions. Depleted uranium (U-238) is known from studies to be toxic, especially to the reproductive system and fetus development. Photos widely available on the internet show terrifying birth defects in war-zone babies alleged to be caused by the use of DU munitions.

Recent studies by medical colleges, and statistics from local morgues and hospitals, have shown a higher than expected number of cancer-related deaths in Iraq's southern provinces. According to specialists, the main causes are the increased use of unsafe products in agriculture and the long-term effects of war on health...

"Exposure to radiation from old cluster bombs, the high use of chemicals in agriculture as well as water contamination is having a serious impact on the health of local people, since these factors are important promoters of cancer related diseases. Many of the patients could have been treated but they died because of lack of facilities," Abdel-Kareem added...

"At least 45 percent of deaths in the southern provinces are caused by cancer. Some patients develop related diseases which worsen their condition, leading to a faster death. The statistics are having a serious impact on the health system and urgent funds are needed," said Imad Hassan, a health specialist and member of the commission which produced the study.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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Study: Inhaled dust from depleted uranium munitions increase risk of gene damage, cancer

Report: Husband and wife U.S. embassy employees kidnapped, killed

Above: The U.S. embassy in Baghdad's 'green zone'

An al Qaeda-led group said on Thursday it had killed an Iraqi husband and wife employed by the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Earlier, U.S. officials said the couple appeared to have been kidnapped.

The U.S. officials, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case, said that after the husband went missing late last week his wife went to look for him and then she too appeared to have been abducted.

"God's ruling has been implemented against two of the most prominent agents and spies of the worshippers of the cross ... a man and woman who occupy an important position at the U.S. embassy..." the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq said in a statement published on the Internet.

Read the rest at Reuters/Alternet

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2 killed, 10 wounded in mortar attacks on Green Zone

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Odierno: Higher troop deaths due to Petraeus' outpost strategy, sophisticated enemy perimeter defenses

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq, inspects Zaganiyah Patrol Base on April 29.

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said... the high number of U.S. troop deaths in recent days has been caused both by their closer proximity to enemy forces while disbursed into joint security stations and combat outposts, and by the enemy’s efforts to build “bigger and bigger” improvised explosive devices and burying them more deeply — as well as using them to form defensive perimeters.

“What we’re finding is the insurgents and extremists use IEDs as their own little security and support zones,” Odierno said. “They use large, buried IEDs, in areas we have not been before. And some of them have been somewhat effective — which has raised our death toll.

“We are working very hard to counter this,” Odierno said. “I have confidence that we’ll be able to do that over time. But it’s going to be some hard sledding here.”

Read the rest at Army Times

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Odierno: Commanders at all levels told to 'reach out' to insurgents 'because there are insurgents reaching out to us'

Above: Soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division pull security during a recon mission for an operation in the Al Hadr area of Baghdad on May 11

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, said he has told other U.S. commanders “at all levels” to “reach out” to insurgents “because there are insurgents reaching out to us — which is the most important thing. So we want to reach back to them. And we’re talking about cease-fires, and maybe signing some things that say they won’t conduct operations against the government of Iraq, or against coalition forces”...

“It’s happening at small levels,” he said. He didn’t specify which groups were involved.

He also said he thinks a high degree of reconciliation between rival sects and groups is possible, adding that perhaps 80 percent of the sectarian elements within the country are “reconcilable.” That would include “very few” members of al-Qaida, he added.

Read the rest at Army Times

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Report: Britain assembles elite special force to hunt for kidnapped

Above: British Special Air Service (SAS) commandos are considered perhaps the most elite anti-terror special forces in the world.

Britain has assembled an elite squad of 20 police, military and intelligence operatives to hunt for five kidnapped Britons in Iraq, The Times of London reports.

The team is in London ready to fly to Baghdad as soon as the British Embassy summons it with leads in Tuesday's kidnappings, the newspaper said.

As many as 40 men abducted the Britons at gunpoint outside the Iraqi Finance Ministry.

The new hostage squad has members of elite SAS and Special Boat Service, specialists from Scotland Yard's Serious and Organized Crime Command, which has a hostage and crisis negotiations unit, along with agents of MI6, the foreign intelligence agency, the newspaper said.

Read the rest at UPI

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Sadr City police report two non-combatants killed in Sadr City airstrike during search for kidnapped Britons

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U.S. launches large-scale night raids in search for kidnapped Britons; Armored vehicles reported to repeatedly breach walls of houses

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Sadr City police report two non-combatants killed in Sadr City airstrike during search for kidnapped Britons

Left: A boy walks through the rubble left after a 'raid' on a house in Sadr City. Armored vehicles have reportedly breached the walls of some houses before troops pour in.

U.S. forces pressed on Thursday with the search for five kidnapped Britons, and a procession of mourners, some of them women wailing and beating their chests, marched through Sadr City behind a small bus carrying the coffins of two people who police said were killed in a U.S. helicopter strike before dawn.

The U.S. military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged attack in the second day of a search for the Britons who were abducted from a Finance Ministry data processing building in eastern Baghdad on Tuesday.

Associated Press Television news video tape from Sadr City showed the coffins of the victims atop a small bus with men and women walking behind, crying. A young boy could be seen sitting next to the coffins on the bus.

A car near where the attack happened was punctured with big holes as if hit by an airstrike.

A police officer in Sadr City, who refused to allow use of his name because he feared retribution, said the helicopter hit a house and car at 4:30 a.m., killing two elderly people sleeping on the roof of their home, a common practice in the extreme heat of Iraq through late spring and summer.

Read the rest at AOL News

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Report: MRAPs unable to withstand EFPs

Above: Aftermath of an EFP (explosively formed projectile) attack. First reported in use last year, the armor-piercing EFPs are significantly more lethal than conventional roadside bombs.

New military vehicles that are supposed to better protect troops from roadside explosions in Iraq aren't strong enough to withstand the latest type of bombs used by insurgents, according to Pentagon documents and military officials.

As a result, the vehicles need more armor added to them, according to a January Marine Corps document provided to USA TODAY. The Pentagon faced the same problem with its Humvees at the beginning of the war.

The military plans to spend as much as $25 billion for up to 22,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles by 2009. Last month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates declared that buying the new vehicles should be the Pentagon's top procurement priority.

But the armor on those vehicles cannot stop the newest bomb to emerge, known as an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). The Pentagon plans to replace virtually all Humvees with MRAPs to provide better protection against roadside bombs, responsible for most casualties in Iraq.

Read the rest at USA Today

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Oil ministry to open 50 24-hour gas stations in Baghdad

Above: A gas station in Baghdad, where long lines are common. The gas shortage in the oil-rich country has been exacerbated by the lack of electricity, causing those who can afford it to turn to generators which compete for the limited fuel supply in the country with the world's second-largest oil reserves.

Iraq's Oil Ministry will open 50 gas stations in Baghdad 24 hours a day as the fuel crisis worsens and the oil industry is unable to keep up with demand.

Iraqis wait for hours in line for gas that has skyrocketed in price since the 2003 invasion. Gas was subsidized, but that subsidy must be drawn down, according to terms of the economic structural adjustment program of the International Monetary Fund.

Issam Jihad, spokesman for the ministry, said the 50 stations would begin operating to ease the long lines at the pump, Al-Sabaah reports. He also said security at the stations would be increased as night falls.

McLatchy Newspapers reports licensed gas stations sell usually diluted gas for $1.22 a gallon -- 10 times the pre-war cost for a nation suffering from mass unemployment and violence. For more than $3 a gallon, consumers can purchase gas from the black market.

Read the rest at UPI

Navy to decrease deployment time for Individual Augmentees by 3 months

Above: An Individual Augmentee Training Course at the McCrady Training Center in South Carolina. Sometimes known as 'sand sailors', Individual Augmentees (IAs) are basically Navy personnel transferred to work with the Army in combat duty. There are approximately 13,000 sailors serving in IA billets, split between active duty and reserve components. The majority of IAs serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. In order to accomplish the transition from sailor to soldier, they go through a shortened version of combat basic training and learn Army tactics and doctrines, and train on the various weapons they will use in theater as well as patrol techniques, land navigation, and urban assault.

Responding to requests from sailors doing nontraditional work in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Navy has announced the first in a series of improvements to its Individual Augmentee program that officials say will continue through the summer.

Among the changes announced Wednesday in a fleetwide administrative message is an expansion of the areas considered eligible for the benefits...

Changes include shortened periods for IA deployments, to be considered “forward-deployed naval forces tours,” from 365 days to 270 days.

Officers and enlisted sailors who are forward-deployed for at least 270 days can pick which U.S. coast they serve on after completing their tour, and/or can be given priority when selecting follow-on duty assignments and locations, Rear Adm. Edward “Sonny” Masso, head of Navy Personnel Command in Millington, Tenn., told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.

Another change in IA benefits is a lifting of the ban on taking advancement exams in theater that was put in place by Adm. Michael Mullen, chief of naval operations.

Read the rest at Stars and Stripes

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Army contracts for GPS-guided artillery shell for combat service in 2010

Above: Marines from Lima Battery, 3rd Battalion, 12th Marine Regiment load an artillery round into a M-198 during a fire mission at Camp Hit in January. The Army plans to spend billions of dollars over the next several years to provide a precision-guided munitions capability to its 120 mm mortars, 105 mm and 155 mm artillery and its rocket artillery. Guided artillery projectiles were initially conceived in the 1970s to defeat tanks and other armoured fighting vehicles. However, 'asymmetric operations' have shifted the emphasis to attacking a broader ranger of targets in urban and other complex terrain. ATK, maker of the Precision Guidance Kit, has wide experience in launch vehicles for space. The new artillery will feature gun-hardened electronics, self-generated power, and a GPS guidance system.

The Army recently awarded ATK a $20 million development deal for its Precision Guidance Kit, an artillery shell outfitted with GPS-guided targeting capability.

The award follows weeks of extensive U.S. Army testing at Yuma Proving Ground, Ariz., involving a shoot-off between precision rounds offered by BAE Systems and ATK.

“ATK’s 18-projectile technology development demonstration test performance exceeded the Army’s objective requirement of less than or equal to 30 meters circular error probability,” said Peter Rowland, a spokesman for the Army’s Picatinny Arsenal, N.J.

ATK’s deal with the Army will lead toward a production phase for the $3,000-apiece rounds in 2009, and fielding with soldiers in combat by 2010, said Army officials.

Read the rest at Army Times

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Anthony Schober laid to rest

There was a moment at the end of Sgt. Anthony J. Schober's burial service Thursday in Santa Rosa when his two lives -- two families, really -- intersected amid talk of his love for junk food and video games.

There was his sister -- one of two -- Rebecca Schober, 20, clutching the framed photo of her slain brother that she held tightly throughout the service, her face full of tears and anguish even as she recalled her big brother's unhealthy appetite for Hostess Ho Hos and Dr Pepper.

But talk of his favorite menu for a session of video games caught the ear of several Army buddies who drew near, smiling and laughing about the "Schobe" they knew in Iraq during the first two of what would be three tours of duty there before his death May 12.

"We'd come back from patrol -- 12, 18 hours on patrol -- and we didn't want to sleep, and we'd hook together four Xboxes and we'd play Halo for three or four hours," said Staff Sgt. Jamie McCarrick, who still serves in the 10th Mountain Division's Company D, 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment out of Fort Drum, N.Y.

"That was Anthony," Schober's father, Ed Schober, said with a smile as he stood above his daughter, trying to comfort her with a shoulder rub. "That was Anthony."

Schober's youngest sister, Jessica Schober, 19, cradled her tiny infant, Konner, and fretted that her brother would never know her son.

"He was just a great guy," she said, "and I love him so much. And I just wish he could have met his nephew."

The 23-year-old soldier was on patrol two weeks ago with six of his men and an Iraqi translator when they were attacked south of Baghdad. Schober, who spent part of his childhood in Rohnert Park, was among four soldiers killed at the scene, although his body was so badly burned he was not identified until four days later.

He initially was thought to be among three other soldiers taken prisoner. The body of one of those was identified Wednesday but as many as 6,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers continue to search for the others.

Schober, who lived in the Reno area where much of his family resides, asked in his will to have his body sent back to Sonoma County. His maternal grandfather, Robert Asper of Rohnert Park, said that was because "this was where he was raised."

He also lived in Clearlake for a time, family members said.

He is the ninth soldier with North Coast roots to die in the war that began four years ago.

Ed Schober told the media last week that his son left school to join the Army at age 17, motivated by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. He was scheduled to leave Iraq in October with hopes of an assignment in Italy and was considering a career with the Army, family members said.

Even on leave he would talk of needing to get back to Iraq "to look after my men," his grandfather said earlier this week.

Schober's commitment to his fellow soldiers and to his country was recognized Thursday in the military trappings of his services at Calvary Catholic Cemetery -- the precision color guard, three volleys of rifle fire, a bagpiper on the hill, a bugler playing taps.

A police escort led his motorcade to the cemetery from Daniels Chapel of the Roses, where he had lain since Tuesday, past saluting firefighters and several clusters of people holding American flags. On the cemetery grounds, about a dozen members of the Patriot Guard Riders with large flags lined the lane to the chapel.

The Rev. Gerard Fahey of St. Eugene's Catholic Church, one of two clergy members to officiate at Schober's services, acknowledged the upcoming holiday honoring Americans "who have given their life in war that we might live in peace."

More than 100 people -- about half standing in the jammed chapel -- attended the service signaled by a tolling bell as family members from Novato and Clearlake joined with loved ones from as far away as Indiana to mourn Schober on the hillside above Santa Rosa, where he'll rest next to Army Cpl. Joshua J. Kynoch, who was killed in 2005 in Iraq.

At Schober's graveside, his mother, Roberta Schober of Carson City, Nev., clasped hands across her mother's lap with Schober's biological father, Mark Webb of Indianapolis. Webb in turn held tightly to the hand of the soldier's adoptive father, Ed Schober, also of Carson City.

Army representatives bestowed upon them the final artifacts of Schober's life, gifts and burdens symbolizing his service to country and the manner of his death: A Purple Heart; a Bronze Star; four triangular wooden boxes containing folded U.S. flags, including the one that draped his coffin; and for Rebecca Schober, a copy of her brother's dog tags, which were stolen in the ambush.

"This was all I wanted," she said.

Schober's parents grimaced as the rifle fire sounded, wept as their son's casket was lowered into the ground and left white roses, one at a time, as they said goodbye -- Webb blowing a kiss into the grave.

Later, Rebecca Schober sat nearby still clutching the photos of her brother -- a large framed one of him standing in a red T-shirt, arms crossed and a smirk on his face in what she said was a familiar pose, with several smaller snapshots of the two as children tucked into the crevice around the edge.

Webb walked over and kissed the photo, then held his son's sister by the shoulders and made her promise.

"Don't let it tear you apart," Webb said. "Anthony doesn't want you to be that way. Be proud. I am."

In addition to his parents and sisters, Schober is survived by grandparents Leona and Robert Asper of Rohnert Park, and Bill and Arlene Schober of Novato.

From the Press Democrat

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