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Fallen Comrades Allied Forces

Firefighter Dies During Rescue Attempt in Iraq
Air Force News
February 14, 2005

DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas - A firefighter from here was killed Feb. 13 while on a rescue mission in Iraq.

Staff Sgt. Ray Rangel, 29, died while attempting to rescue two Soldiers trapped in a Humvee that overturned in a canal. He was deployed to an Air Force unit operating out of Balad Air Base, Iraq.

He was permanently assigned to the 7th Civil Engineer Squadron and was a native of San Antonio. He arrived here in September 2002 and had been on active duty since September 1994.

"All of Team Dyess mourns the loss of one of our own. Sergeant Rangel died courageously attempting to rescue others. While we grieve for him and his family, we are at the same time filled with pride and gratitude for his heroism. He will be missed, but others will honor his sacrifice by carrying on the fight with the same courage he displayed," said Col. Garrett Harencak, 7th Bomb Wing commander.
An RAF C-130K Hercules crashed 30 kilometres north-west of Baghdad on 30 January 2005 at approximately 1635 local time. The aircraft was on a flight between Baghdad International Airport and Balad airbase. Ten UK Service personnel are missing believed killed; nine from the Royal Air Force and one from the Army. Their repatriation to RAF Lyneham commenced on the afternoon of 7 February, being flown out from Basrah with full honours.

Squadron Leader Patrick Marshall, Headquarters Strike Command

It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Squadron Leader Patrick Brian Marshall, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 39 and divorced, he was a staff officer serving with Headquarters Strike Command, High Wycombe, and was on temporary detachment to Iraq as a liaison officer.

Patrick joined the Royal Air Force in June 1990 as a pilot, serving 11 operational tours on the Tornado GR. He was awarded a General Service Medal for Air operations in Iraq, an Operational Service Medal for Operation Telic and the NATO Medal for operations in the former Yugoslavia. His last job was as a Staff Officer at Headquarters Strike Command, Royal Air Force High Wycombe, where he was part of a team responsible for coordinating Royal Air Force support operations.

Although he thoroughly enjoyed his staff tours, he was eagerly looking forward to returning to his greatest passion: flying. He was a highly regarded and talented operational pilot. During his time at Royal Air Force High Wycombe he lived in the local area and had recently announced that he was engaged to be married. Patrick was a well liked and spirited officer with many friends throughout the headquarters and the wider military community. He will be sorely missed by all those that knew him.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Flight Lieutenant David Stead, 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham

It is with great regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Flight Lieutenant David Kevin Stead, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 35 and married, he was a pilot serving with 47 Squadron based at RAF Lyneham.

David 'Steady' Stead (pronounced "Sted", not "Steed") was born on 15 October 1969 and brought up in West Yorkshire. In his youth he was a keen fell runner. After a short spell with a quantity surveying practice, he was commissioned as an RAF Officer on 2 August 1990 and was posted to RAF Linton-on-Ouse where he commenced flying training. He was awarded his pilot's wings in 1993 and joined the Hercules fleet in 1995.

He completed his co-pilot's tour on 47 Sqn and rejoined the Sqn as a captain on 18 Dec 1999. He amassed some 4100 hours in the air, with 3800 on the Hercules, and was recognised as being one of the most capable captains within the Hercules fleet. It is often said by his fellow aviators that he was, â Å“Steady by name and steady by natureâ ?.

Steady had been involved in operations around the globe with the Hercules fleet in Afghanistan and Iraq. Crews always showed a depth of trust and confidence in his captaincy that motivated them to give their all. This ability was never better demonstrated that during the evacuation of a number of seriously injured combat casualties, including children, in Afghanistan. This mission was conducted in appalling flying conditions where no other fixed wing aircraft would fly. On this occasion his exceptional skill, judgement and physical bravery was directly responsible for saving lives.

He was a typically straight-talking Yorkshireman with a devilish sense of humour and a fine wit, who always insisted on his cup of Yorkshire tea to start the day. Married to Michelle, who he met at a wedding, he was delighted to discover that she was a local Yorkshire lass. They have two daughters, Holly and Amelia. Steady was a wonderful father, husband and aviator and he will be missed by all.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Flight Lieutenant Andrew Smith, 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham

It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Flight Lieutenant Andrew Paul Smith, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. A pilot serving with 47 Squadron, based at RAF Lyneham, he was a single man aged 25.

Andrew 'Smudge' Smith was born on 1 July 1979 in Doncaster and educated at Matthew Humberstone School, Cleethorpes. Andrew then read Environmental Management at Lancaster University, where he gained a BSc (Hons). He joined Liverpool University Air Squadron at RAF Woodvale on 6 December 1997, where he commenced his elementary flying training. He was commissioned as an RAF Officer on 6 August 2000 and was posted to RAF Linton-on-Ouse where he continued his flying training. He was awarded his pilot's wings in 2002 and joined the Hercules fleet on 29 August 2003.

Smudge was posted to LXX Sqn on 15 January 2004 as a squadron co-pilot, then to 47 Sqn on 15 November 2004. He had 685 flying hours, 105 of which were on the Hercules.

Although Smudger was in the advent of his flying career, he brought a great deal of enthusiasm and humour to the crews he flew with. Smudge was on his first operational detachment; however, he had recently given one of the best ever performances on the tactical air transport course.

When he wasn't flying Smudger could be found either riding, polishing or talking about one of his performance motorbikes. He was a keen Valentino Rossi fan and was often seen trying to emulate his hero on track race days. He was an active Officers' Mess member who keenly supported all social functions and his colourful character was reflected in his array of fancy dress costumes. Popular amongst his peers, his one-liners and witty comebacks will be sorely missed by all.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time

Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham

It is with great regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Flight Lieutenant Paul Martin Pardoel, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. An Australian, aged 35 and married, he was a navigator with 47 Squadron at RAF Lyneham.

Paul 'Pards' 'Paulie' Pardoel was born in Melbourne, Australia on 15 June 1969 and spent his youth growing up in the Australian city of Ballarat. He joined the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra in 1988 and graduated three years later with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He completed Navigator training with the Royal Australian Air Force the following year and was posted to 36 Squadron flying Hercules aircraft in Richmond, outside Sydney. He served with distinction, flying operational aircraft around the world for seven years. In 1999 he moved to Sale in Victoria where he instructed at the School of Air Navigation, training future navigators for the Australian and New Zealand Defence Forces. In this role Pards was renowned as an exceptional instructor for his ability to impart knowledge whilst maintaining a relaxed environment for his students.

After 14 enjoyable and rewarding years with the Royal Australian Air Force Pards was ready for a new challenge. He transferred to the Royal Air Force in 2002, and was posted to 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham, again flying C-130 Hercules aircraft. He was a valuable member of the Squadron who served in all aspects of squadron operations, including active duty in both Afghanistan and Iraq. For these operations he was awarded Operational Service medals. Renowned amongst his friends and colleagues as an unflappable individual, Paul could never be fazed. He enjoyed the banter of being the only Australian in the Squadron, and remained a good sport, despite a Rugby World Cup final loss.

All of this was secondary to Paul's first passion, his family. He met his wife and soul mate Kellie at an RAAF Summer Ball and they married in November 1995. Their first daughter Jordie was born two years later, and Jackson followed in 1999. Little India joined the family almost a year after moving to the UK. With their warmth and good humour, Paul and Kellie always settled easily into any new environment. RAF Lyneham was no exception, where the Pardoels lived in joy and happy chaos.

Paul's love and dedication to his family was obvious to all who were fortunate enough to know them. He had the relaxed easy grace of someone who knew what was important in life, and what wasn't worth worrying about. There is no doubt that Kellie and their children were the centre of his world. Between them, Paul and Kellie created a wonderful family. Pards' philosophy for life was reflected in his approach to fatherhood, where he was very much a 'hands on' and active Dad. His endless patience and gentle encouragement was a direct result of the pure joy he got from Jordie, Jackson and India.

He was a gentleman and a proud Australian. The impact of his sad and terrible loss has devastated a close and loving family. His loss has affected all who knew him. "We will always miss his smile."

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham

It is with great regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 42 and divorced, he was an Air Engineer serving with 47 Squadron at RAF Lyneham.

Gary Nicholson 'Gary Nic' was born in Hull on 12 March 1962. He joined the RAF on 13 April 1982 and undertook training as an Air Engineer at RAF Finningley on 15 September 1982. He was awarded his Air Engineer brevet on 15 August 1983 and was posted to RAF Lyneham to join the Hercules fleet.

Gary started his long and distinguished career on the Hercules on 47 Sqn on 14 April 1984. He was then posted to 24 Sqn in July 1987 followed by a return to 47 Sqn on 2 July 1990. Gary then became an instructor in the simulator on 12 October 1994 and again returned to 47 Sqn for the third time in September 2002. During his flying career Gary amassed a total of 6400 hours, the vast majority of which was on the Hercules

Gary Nic saw action in many theatres over his 23 years of service. He has a campaign medal and a General Service Medal for Operation Granby (Iraq 1991), NATO and UN Service medals for the Balkans 1993 and 1994 and an Operational Service Medal for the recent operations in Iraq.

Gary Nic was known and loved by all who worked with him. It has been commented once or twice in the past that you could hear him before you could see him; seeing him was not a problem either as he was a giant of a man, with a giant heart and ebullient nature. Indeed, Gary was the embodiment of a Master Air Engineer and in the finest traditions of the service, always put the interests of his subordinates before himself. Gary leaves behind two sons who he loved and nurtured with a tenderness rarely seen. He will be sorely missed.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Chief Technician Richard Brown, RAF Lyneham

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Chief Technician Richard Antony Brown, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. An avionics specialist, aged 40 and divorced, he served with the Engineering Wing at RAF Lyneham, the home-base for all RAF Hercules.

Richard Brown joined the Royal Air Force in 1983, and has served two tours of duty at RAF Lyneham, beginning his second tour in 1998. Richie, as everyone called him, was a keen and active sportsman who was always extremely enthusiastic and committed in everything he did. He was totally dedicated and professional in his approach to all his duties, and was always willing and eager to help others. Indeed, he worked ceaselessly for charity and in 1998 was awarded an 11 Group Commendation for his charity work during his time at RAF Kinloss. He was highly thought of and will be sadly missed by all those who served alongside him, particularly the small section of engineers who worked closely with him.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Flight Sergeant Mark Gibson, 47 Squadron, RAF Lyneham

It is with very deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Flight Sergeant Mark Gibson, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. An Air Load Master, aged 34 and married, he served with 47 Squadron based at RAF Lyneham.

Mark 'Gibbo' Gibson was born on 19 March 1970 in York. He joined the RAF aged 17 on 6 October 1987 and undertook training as an Air Loadmaster on 15 April 1988. He was awarded his Air Loadmaster brevet on 3 February 1989, and was posted directly to RAF Lyneham to join the Hercules fleet.

Gibbo started his career on the Hercules with 24 Sqn in July 1989. An early above-average flying category saw him posted to an instructor's tour with 57 Sqn in May 1993, then to 47 Sqn in Jan 1996. Mark accrued more than 7300 flying hours, the vast majority of which were on the Hercules. Gibbo saw action in many theatres and was awarded Operational Service Medals for Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Throughout his career, Mark managed to combine his intelligent, hard working approach to professional matters with an ebullient enthusiasm that made him a pleasure to work with. As an instructor, his depth of knowledge and ability to relate to all made him a natural. After becoming qualified in the tactical C-130 roles he was rapidly assessed as being the best all-round operator in his section. Later, not one to rest on his laurels, he produced an ad-hoc new loading scheme which directly led to the success of a major operation during the Afghanistan conflict.

Gibbo was known and loved by all who worked with him and he was known to be a bandit on the golf course, regularly playing 10 below his handicap. He was requested by name by those he worked with and was renowned for his entertainments, such as the music he played to parachutists as they jumped out. In short he was one of life's entertainers, a true character a real giver - never a taker.

Mark married the love of his life, Sheila on 24 October 1992. Their daughter Poppy was born on 28 November 1997 and he took great delight that she had already started her golf lessons. Mark was a great husband and father and he will be sorely missed.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Sergeant Robert O'Connor, RAF Lyneham

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Sergeant Robert Michael O'Connor, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 38 and single, he was an Engineering Technician serving with the Engineering Wing at RAF Lyneham, the home-base for all RAF Hercules.

Bob O'Connor joined the Royal Air Force as an Apprentice in October 1985. On completion of his apprenticeship, he was posted to RAF Lyneham, where he spent the vast majority of his Service career, excepting a short tour at nearby RAF Brize Norton. He was held in the highest esteem and regard by his work colleagues and superiors for his knowledge, dedication and professionalism. During his tours, he was an active sportsman and a keen participant in all aspects of the fabric of station life. He will be sadly missed by his loved ones, colleagues and friends, particularly the small section of engineers who worked closely with him. All our thoughts are with his family and loved ones at the time.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time.

Corporal David Williams, RAF Lyneham

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence can confirm that Corporal David Edward Williams, Royal Air Force, is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 37, he was a Survival Equipment Fitter serving with the Engineering Wing at RAF Lyneham, the home-base for all RAF Hercules.

Married with 3 young children, Dave Williams was a devoted husband and proud father. Colleagues remember him as a happy-go-lucky character, with a mischievous personality and a dry sense of humour; forever joking, making light of any conditions in any location. A member of the Royal Air Force for 17 years, he had amassed a wealth of knowledge and was a totally dedicated individual who epitomised professionalism.

The media are asked to respect the family's privacy at this very difficult time

Acting Lance Corporal Steven Jones, Royal Signals

It is with great regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Acting Lance Corporal Steven Jones is missing believed killed following the loss of an RAF C-130K Hercules aircraft over Iraq on 30 January 2005. Aged 25 and single, he served with the Royal Signals and came from Fareham.

Steven's family have issued the following statement:

"Steve worked hard, played hard and lived life to the max whether it be skydiving or bungee jumping. Words will never be able to express the loss that we feel today. He was always adventurous, fun loving and had a wicked sense of humour. Steve will forever be in the hearts of those that knew him best. The family would like to request that they and his friends are allowed to grieve together in peace."

The family have specifically requested that the media do not approach them.

Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers

At 1830 local on 8 November 2004, a Warrior armoured vehicle from the Black Watch Battle Group was hit by a roadside bomb north of Camp Dogwood. The Warrior left the road, its wheels destroyed on one side, and one soldier was killed and two others injured - neither seriously. The injured men were taken by a US helicopter medevac team to a military hospital in Baghdad; and the damaged Warrior was subsequently recovered to Camp Dogwood.

Private Pita Tukutukuwaqa, The Black Watch

It is with great regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Private Pita Tukutukuwaqa of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch died on 8 November 2004 when his Warrior armoured vehicle was hit by a roadside improvised explosive device. Aged 27, he was married and came from Fiji.

Lieutenant Colonel James Cowan, commanding the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, said on 9 November:

â Å“It is with regret that I inform you of the death of one of our soldiers last night. Private Tukutukuwaqa was driving his Warrior armoured vehicle when the device exploded, killing him instantly. Private Tukutukuwaqa was 27 and joined the Black Watch in March 2001. He served with the Battalion in Kosovo and in Iraq last year. He was a trained sniper and an outstanding sportsman.

"He will be dearly missed by his regiment and his friends

"Private Tukutukuwaqa was married and his wife has been notified of the incident.The Black Watch Battlegroup is developing it's tactics to counter this sort of attack and has been supported by specialist equipment to assist these tacticsâ ?.

Our thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.

Three British soldiers were killed, and others injured, in a suicide car-bomb attack on a vehicle check-point within the Black Watch area of operations on 4 November 2004. An Iraqi interpreter was also killed, and eight soldiers were wounded.

Sergeant Stuart Gray, The Black Watch
Private Paul Lowe, The Black Watch
Private Scott McArdle, The Black Watch 
Lieutenant-Colonel James Cowan, commanding the 1st Battalion The Black Watch, said at Camp Dogwood on 5 November:

"It is my sad duty to report the death of three of my soldiers. At 1300 on 4 November, a patrol from D Company, the 1st Battalion The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) was conducting a Vehicle Check Point in an area east of the Euphrates. At this time, a suicide bomber drove his vehicle at the soldiers, detonating the device. The troops then came under sustained mortar fire. Three soldiers and one civilian interpreter were killed, and eight soldiers wounded. Sergeant Stuart Gray, Private Paul Lowe, and Private Scott McArdle were all killed instantly, as was the patrol's interpreter, whose name cannot be released for security reasons.

"For a close-knit family such as the Black Watch, this is indeed a painful blow. All three of the soldiers were our friends, but as we mourn their deaths, so we remember their lives and give thanks to their contribution to the life of our Regiment. The interpreter had been with the Black Watch since our arrival in Iraq, and had become a friend to the soldiers. He had volunteered to come north with us, and had delayed his wedding, which was to have taken place on the day of his death. Stuart Gray was a Sergeant of great experience in the Mortar Platoon; Paul Lowe was a talented drummer in the Pipes and Drums; and Scott McArdle was a rifleman in the elite Reconnaissance Platoon. We will miss them as brothers-in-arms, and extend our sympathy and love to their families. The whole of the Black Watch is saddened by this loss. But while we fell this blow most keenly, we will not be deterred from seeing our task through to a successful conclusion."

Major Lindsay MacDuff, the Officer Commanding the Battalion's Rear Party at Warminster, said on 5 November:

"The Black Watch has always been a close-knit family, and the news that three of our soldiers were tragically killed while serving in Iraq is keenly felt by all ranks and their families. All are left saddened by the news that we have lost three friends.

"The men of the Black Watch are determined to continue with their operational tasks in Iraq. In the words from a key passage of the Regimental Collect, "We of the Black Watch will stand fast in the faith and be strong" at this time, both here with the families, and with the men on operations.

"The Army and the Black Watch have a robust and coordinated welfare structure that is designed to meet the needs of those affected by the incident yesterday. We would ask the media to keep their distance and give us a chance to grieve and come to terms with our loss at what is a difficult time."

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Sergeant Stuart Robert Tennant Gray of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch was killed by a suicide car-bomb attack on a vehicle check-point in Iraq on 4 November 2004. Aged 31, he was married with two children, and came from Dunfermline, Fife. Sergeant Gray had served twelve years in the Army. He was educated at Pitcorthie Primary School and Woodmill High School.

The following statement was issued by the family on behalf of Mrs Mary Gray, Sergeant Gray's mother:

"She is obviously deeply shocked by the news of the death of her son, yet that sadness is tinged with her pride in a much loved son who was a member of his local Regiment. He was an experienced and professional soldier, a loving husband, father, son and brother, and a proud member of the Black Watch. Her thoughts are also with the families of Privates Lowe and McArdle, and the other Black Watch soldiers injured in the same incident; as well as her daughter-in-law, Wendy, her family, and two gorgeous grand-children: Kirstin aged twelve, and Darren, ten."

The media are requested to respect his family's privacy at this very difficult time

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Private Paul Aitken Lowe of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch was killed by a suicide car-bomb attack on a vehicle check-point in Iraq on 4 November 2004. Aged 19, he was single and came from Fife. He had been in the Army three years.

Private Paul Lowe was a keen and admirable young soldier who had wanted to join The Black Watch from the age of seven years. A very able and talented drummer while still at school, at Kelty in Fife, he continued his interest throughout his year-long training at the Army Apprentice College in Yorkshire and subsequent training at Catterick. He was a popular, lively young man at home and in the Battalion, having joined The Black Watch in November 2002, aged 17 years, in Germany. He deployed with his Battalion to Kuwait in 2003 and subsequently fought in the period of active combat operations in Iraq War in the spring.

In July 2003 he returned to Germany with the Battalion, and thereafter to Warminster in February 2004, having gained an instructor qualification in his drumming in the meantime. He again deployed to Iraq with his Battalion in July 2004, with his fellow pipers and drummers in their war-fighting role.

Having been passed the news of his death his brother Craig (18) also serving in The Black Watch but home in Scotland attending a training course said:

"My family and all of Paul's friends were shocked and saddened to hear of his death while serving his country with the 1st Battalion The Black Watch in Iraq. It is a sad time for us all and at this time words cannot express the depth of grief that my mother Helen, brothers Stuart (16), Shaun (13), Jordan (10) and myself feel."

A close friend of the family said:

"His mother, Mrs Helen Lowe was bitterly struck by the untimely death of her son, of whom she and her brothers were immensely proud. Mrs Lowe and the boys have been supported superbly in their time of grief and by the close support of their friends, family and neighbours despite the intrusion of the media into their sadness".

Craig added:

"On behalf of the whole family I would be grateful to the media to now leave us alone to grieve and mourn in peace during this very sad time."

It is with deep regret that the Ministry of Defence has to confirm that Private Scott William McArdle of the 1st Battalion The Black Watch was killed by a suicide car-bomb attack on a vehicle check-point in Iraq on 4 November 2004. Aged 22, he was single and came from Glenrothes. Scott McArdle had served in the Army six years.

The media are requested to respect his family's privacy at this very difficult time.

U.S. Soldier Killed In Western Iraq
Associated Press
February 16, 2005

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier was killed in action in western Iraq, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The soldier assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was killed Tuesday "while conducting security and stability operations" in volatile Anbar province, the military said in a statement.

No other details were available. The deceased soldier's name was withheld as is customary in the military, pending notification of next of kin.

Anbar is a vast territory west of Baghdad where insurgents have been active and includes the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi and Qaim on the border with Syria.

As of Tuesday, at least 1,464 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,114 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.


The story is about the deaths of two Thai NCO's while guarding their base at Camp Lima in Iraq. It doesnt really relate the true character of these men. They were on guard outside their main gate when they saw a vehicle approaching at a high rate of speed. The NCO's stood their ground and opened fire with their rifles. This forced the driver to detonate his explosives early before he could drive into Lima saving many lives. The Thai government had turned down the request by the Thai commander for .50 MG's. Afterwards the Polish division commander made sure the Thai's got some heavy weapons to improve camp security. The courage to stand their ground is what soldiering is all about. Leadership by example.
Humvee Tragedy Forges Brotherhood of Soldiers
Iraqis Persevere to Recover Dead Americans

By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, February 22, 2005; Page A01

BALAD, Iraq -- When the Iraqi troops arrived that morning, three American servicemen lay dead at the bottom of the Isaki Canal.

The body of a fourth, Sgt. Rene Knox Jr., 22, had been recovered from a submerged Humvee. Patrolling without headlights around 4:30 a.m., Knox had overshot a right turn. His vehicle tumbled down a concrete embankment and settled upside down in the frigid water.

During the harrowing day-long mission to recover the bodies of the Humvee's three occupants on Feb. 13, an Air Force firefighter also drowned. Five U.S. soldiers were treated for hypothermia. For five hours, three Navy SEAL divers searched the canal before their tanks ran out of oxygen.

What happened then, however, has transformed the relationship between the Iraqi soldiers and the skeptical Americans who train them. Using a tool they welded themselves that day at a cost of about $40, the Iraqis dredged the canal through the cold afternoon until the tan boot of Spec. Dakotah Gooding, 21, of Des Moines, appeared at the surface. The Iraqis then jumped into the water to pull him out, and went back again and again until they had recovered the last American. Then they stood atop the canal, shivering in the dark.

"When I saw those Iraqis in the water, fighting to save their American brothers, I saw a glimpse of the future of this country," said Col. Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, which had overall responsibility for the unit in the accident, his eyes tearing.

The dramatic events offer a counterpoint to the prevailing wisdom about the nascent Iraqi security forces -- the key to the Bush administration's strategy to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. U.S. commanders have said repeatedly that when the Iraqi troops are ready to stand and fight, American forces will pull out.

To date, the reputation of the Iraqis among American soldiers has been one of sloppiness, disloyalty and cowardice, even though thousands of Iraqi soldiers, policemen and recruits have been killed by insurgents.

Many U.S. soldiers say they fear even standing near the Iraqis because of their propensity to fire their weapons randomly. At Camp Paliwoda in Balad, where Americans from the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment are training a new Iraqi army battalion, the soldiers work at adjacent bases but are separated by a locked gate, razor wire and a 50-foot-tall chain-link fence.

Pfc. Russell Nahvi, 23, of Arlington, Tex., a medic whose platoon was involved in the accident, said he arrived in Iraq this month with preconceptions about the Iraqi forces. "You always heard never to trust them, to never turn your back on them," he said.

The actions of the Iraqis that Sunday "changed my mind for how I felt about these guys," he said. "I have a totally different perspective now. They were just so into it. They were crying for us. They were saying we were their brothers, too."

A Missing Vehicle

The tragedy on Feb. 13 began when 11 soldiers from the 3rd Platoon, Charlie Company, of the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, set out from Camp Paliwoda, 50 miles north of Baghdad, under a moonless sky around 3 a.m. Their four Humvees headed toward Balad's western outskirts, from where the Americans believed insurgents had fired rockets at the base. This account of what happened and what was said is based on interviews with the eight surviving members of the platoon, members of the Iraqi battalion and senior officers with the 5th Battalion, 7th Cavalry.

The platoon leader, Lt. Lamarius Workman, 30, of Brunswick, Ga., rode in the lead Humvee, code-named Blue 1. Behind him in Blue 2 were Knox, from New Orleans; Gooding, who manned the gunner's hatch; and Sgt. Chad Lake, 26, of Ocala, Fla., in the right passenger seat.

The convoy stopped at an intersection along a dirt road. Workman warned the platoon about the canal on the other side. He told the drivers to dim their headlights after making the turn and switch to night-vision goggles for stealth. But after Workman made the turn, he ordered the vehicles to turn around because he saw no visible escape routes in case of an ambush.

When the vehicles turned back, the second Humvee was missing.

continued here  http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42460-2005Feb21_2.html

Major Vanessa Lloyd-Davies
(Filed: 24/02/2005)

Major Vanessa Lloyd-Davies, who has died aged 44, was the first female medical officer to the Household Cavalry, and was awarded a military MBE in 1993 for her work in Bosnia, where she attended badly wounded children under mortar fire.


As head of a UN medical team, she was unfazed when her vehicle was blown up by a landmine as she escorted a hole-in-the-heart baby through "sniper's alley" to Gorazde airport.

On being interviewed afterwards, Vanessa Lloyd-Davies shrugged off the dangers, saying that she had been too busy to hear a bomb go off near the aircraft waiting to take the child to Slovenia, and that she had faced risks before while riding hard with the Quorn Hunt in Leicestershire.

On another occasion, she tended the BBC correspondent Martin Bell at the British field hospital at Zagreb where he was hit by mortar fragments. When the the UN Protection Force was forced out of Sarajevo by bombing she returned a month later so that her team provided the only medical back-up until a French hospital arrived.

Douglas Hurd, who visited Bosnia as Foreign Secretary, wrote about how safe he felt in her care, while Lt-Gen Sir Hew Pike told her: "Your courageous performance and hard work are an inspiration to us all."

Susan Vanessa Lloyd-Davies was born on November 30 1960 into a medical family stretching back nine generations; her father is the urologist Wyndham Lloyd-Davies. She embarked on her lifelong enthusiasm for hunting at 13, encouraged by Reginald Paget, the patrician Labour MP who was Master of the Pytchley.

Young Vanessa was educated at Benenden, and read Physiology at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, while becoming the first female master of the Oxford Drag Hounds. She then began full medical training at St Thomas's Hospital and joined the Royal Army Medical Corps in 1990. After serving in Germany, she was commissioned into the Household Cavalry as its first female medical officer since its foundation in 1652. Vanessa Lloyd-Davies returned to the Household Cavalry after her Bosnian tour, and ran trauma courses for the SAS, before leaving the Army to work as a GP in London. She later returned as a civilian to the congenial post of medical officer to the King's Troop, Royal Horse Artillery. Adjusting the uniform to suit the figure and requirements of a mounted female medical officer, she showed enthusiasm and sympathy for the sick but had a crisp line with malingerers.

Vanessa Lloyd-Davies's return to civilian life enabled her to concentrate more on eventing, in particular riding her superb cross-country horse Don Giovanni II from pre-novice level up to the Badminton and Burghley three-day-events (she referred to the latter as the "Stamford Pony Club trials"). Lucinda Green commented in the Telegraph that her achievement was all the more remarkable for a rider in her forties, working as a doctor and competing against full-time professionals. In addition, she served as a course doctor at many horse trials.

Vanessa Lloyd-Davies married, in 1988, Andrew Jacks who also served in the Balkans during the civil war and was medical officer to the Coldstreams. They established a home with stables in Leicestershire near Market Harborough; but the marriage foundered, and they were divorced last month.

An inveterate chainsmoker, she had suffered from acute depression before her body was found on February 16.
3 U.S. Troops Killed in Iraq
Military death toll nears 1,500. Large car bomb is reported in Hillah.

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

BAGHDAD â ” The U.S. military on Sunday announced the deaths of three troops, pushing the death toll of American forces to nearly 1,500 since the Iraq war began in March 2003.

All three died Saturday; two were killed in an ambush in southeastern Baghdad and the third, a Marine, was killed in military operations in Babil province, south of the capital.

Early today, a large car bombing was reported in Hillah, also in Babil province. Witnesses said a bomber drove into a crowd of people applying for government jobs. Dozens of people were killed or hurt, witnesses said.

The blast followed a deadly Sunday across the country. Bomb attacks and ambushes killed nine people near the northern city of Mosul. Six bodies were found in and just south of Baghdad; one, a woman, had been decapitated and a note attached to her body said "spy."

In western Baghdad, two policemen died in an ambush.
Air Vice-Marshal John Miller
(Filed: 02/03/2005)

Air Vice-Marshal John Miller, who has died aged 76, was head of the RAF's Administration Branch.


Miller was called up in 1947 and elected to join the RAF. Within seven months he was accepted for a commission and decided to remain in the service at the end of his two-year conscription.

In 1965 Miller was sent to command the RAF Support Unit at SHAEF, Fontainbleau. This posting was interrupted when General de Gaulle invited Nato to transferring its headquarters at short notice, and Miller faced the daunting task of moving the RAF Unit, including a hospital and a school, from the charms of Fontainbleau to a disused coal mine in Belgium.

After a period on the Directing Staff of the RAF Staff College and an appointment in the MoD, Miller became responsible for all administration affairs at RAF Halton, the home of the RAF's aircraft apprentice technical training school. After attending the Royal Defence College, he was appointed in 1976 as the Director of Personnel Management (Policy and Plans). On promotion to Air Vice-Marshal in January 1979, he was appointed Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff (Personnel and Logistics). His final appointment was also at the MoD, as Director of Personal Services (RAF). As the highest ranking officer of the RAF Administration Branch, he was head of the branch from 1979 to 1983. He retired from the RAF in 1983, having been appointed CB two years earlier.

John Joseph Miller was born on April 27 1928 at Portsmouth, and attended the local grammar school in time for its wartime evacuation to Bournemouth. He left school aged 15 and became a bank clerk.

Not long after joining the RAF, Miller enrolled as an external student at Gray's Inn and was called to the Bar in 1958. When he first checked the results, borrowing someone's copy, he failed to find his name. Hiding his disappointment, he waited until the next day when he discovered that his name was at the top of the page as one of two to have gained a distinction. After retiring from the RAF, Miller took up the post of Director General of the Institute of Personnel Management.

It was something of a culture shock after so many years of military discipline, but he and the Institute adapted to each other's ways. By the time he left six years later, he had tripled the membership and rejuvenated the finances. He made great progress in establishing international links, and for a year he was President of the European Association of Personnel Management.

Miller began a third career as Director of Studies at St George's House, Windsor Castle. He enjoyed the history, culture, and philosophical and theological debate. He was at Windsor Castle at the time of the great fire, and helped carry many of the treasures to safety. He organised a team of 20 people to roll up an enormous carpet and remove it, and he unhooked and carried outside one of the great paintings, which he subsequently always referred to as â Å“my Holbeinâ ?.

Miller was a keen collector of antiquarian books.

John Miller, who died on January 5, married Adele Colleypriest in 1950. She survives him with a son and two daughters.

Maj-Gen 'Bala' Bredin
(Filed: 03/03/2005)

Major-General 'Bala' Bredin, who died yesterday aged 88, was awarded an MC and Bar when serving with the Royal Ulster Rifles in Palestine in 1938 and an immediate DSO in Italy in 1944; he won an immediate Bar to his DSO in 1945 and received another Bar when commanding the 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment, on Cyprus in 1957; he was also twice mentioned in dispatches.


The son of a colonel in the Indian Army, Humphrey Edgar Nicholson Bredin was born at Peshawar on the Northwest Frontier on March 28 1916. After education at King's School, Canterbury, he went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Ulster Rifles in 1936.

He was following in a long family tradition of military service, for his forebears had fought on both sides at Agincourt in 1415. Both his father and grandfather were in the Green Howards, and two of his uncles had served in the Royal Irish Regiment. While at Sandhurst, Bredin acquired the nickname "Bala", which was the name of a fort in Peshawar and also the name of a successful horse owned by the Aga Khan. On being posted with the Ulster Rifles to Palestine, he found himself quartered in an Arab village called "Bala".

Bredin received his first MC for a successful patrol attack against superior numbers, and was chosen for special night work by Captain Orde Wingate, later the creator of the Long Range Penetration Groups (Chindits) in Burma. The citation noted that "he had already proved adept at this work which is both arduous and dangerous".

While patrolling with a squad of soldiers and police supernumeraries on the night of June 11 1938, he saw a party of Arabs setting fire to the oil pipeline; he attacked them, promptly inflicting casualties and making arrests. Three weeks later he was leading five soldiers on patrol when they encountered a much larger gang astride the oil pipeline which he attacked and drove off, killing and wounding several.

In another action a few days later he engaged a large enemy party which he chased part of the way up Mount Tabor. In spite of being wounded, Bredin remained on duty till the end of the action.

During May 1940 Bredin was commanding a company of the RUR in the fighting retreat from Belgium. They marched from Louvain to Dunkirk, still carrying all their weapons, and fought off numerous German attacks on the way. They then boarded an Isle of Man channel steamer at Dunkirk and, just as Bredin slumped down to catch up with sleep, he saw a man in a white coat.

On discovering that he was a steward, Bredin inquired: "Any chance of a pint of beer?" "Yes, sir," replied the steward, "but I can't serve you till we are three miles out." The ship was rolling from side to side as bombs fell all around her. Eventually Bredin got his beer, just before landing in Kent. "I thought to myself," he said, "we can't lose the war with people like that about."

In 1944 Bredin was asked to command the 6th Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in Italy; on May 15, he was given the task of leading 78 Division in the break through the Gustav Line, the German defences across the peninsular from the north of Naples and Termoli. "Throughout this operation he commanded his battalion with the utmost skill and inspired his men by his examples of personal gallantry under heavy fire. This difficult operation was entirely successful owing to his leadership," ran the citation.

Two days later Bredin was ordered to attack Piumarola, where German infantry and tanks had held up an advance all day. He planned the attack at short notice and was wounded on the start line; but despite his wounds he fought on with great gallantry until success was in sight, when he fainted from loss of blood and was evacuated. He was awarded an immediate DSO.

When Bredin had recovered from his wounds, he was appointed to command the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles. Mounted in Kangaroos (armoured troop carriers) and affiliated to the 9th Lancers, it was then launched through the leading elements of the enemy positions in order to exploit their success.

On April 18, the battalion advanced 10,000 yards, capturing the bridges over the Fossa Sabbiosola and reaching the Scolo Bolognese. In this action enemy artillery was over-run, tanks and guns were destroyed or captured, and many prisoners were taken. Three days later the force advanced another 8,000 yards against stiff opposition, capturing more bridges and matériel.

Bredin's citation emphasised that in this fast-moving battle his grasp of a rapidly changing situation and rapid action were vital. His men had such confidence in his leadership that they cheerfully and enthusiastically embarked on tasks which would have appeared foolhardy under less inspiring command. Well aware of the horrors of the battlefield, Bredin held that preliminary discussion of expected casualties was a mistake, and that fear was best dispelled by treating war as a sort of game.

He never wore a steel helmet and was a conspicuous figure in his regimental feathered bonnet, and carrying a cane. A soldier who was constantly making jokes, he affirmed, was worth his weight in gold, for it took men's minds off the appalling scenes around them. Following the war, Bredin was once more engaged in anti-terrorist work in Palestine and, after a spell as an instructor at Sandhurst, was seconded to command the Eastern Arab Corps in the Sudan Defence Force from 1949 to 1953.

He was then appointed to command the 2nd Parachute Regiment at Suez and on Cyprus, where his leadership and planning in anti-terrorist work, mainly in the Troodos Hills, brought him a third DSO. His troops captured a large collection of automatic weapons, arms and explosives as well as important documents, and reduced four organised gangs to a number of leaderless individuals. On returning home, Bredin was characteristically outspoken about the men's deep frustation at the ceasefire.

After two years in the home posting Bredin was promoted to command 99 Gurkha Brigade Group in Malaya and Borneo. In 1962, he was appointed Chief of the British Commander-in-Chief's Mission to Soviet Forces in Germany (BRIXMIS) for two years. From 1965 to 1968 he commanded 42nd Division (TA) and from 1967 was GOC, Northwest District. He was appointed CB in 1969.

His final posting was as Director of Volunteers, Territorials and Cadets, Ministry of Defence, from 1968-71, during which time he was also the first Colonel Commandant of the newly formed King's Division. He was Colonel of the Royal Irish Rangers from 1979 to 1984.

In retirement he was Essex and Suffolk appeals secretary for the Cancer Research campaign, and enjoyed shooting, travelling, fishing, gardening and entertaining. A trenchant letter writer to The Daily Telegraph, he questioned cuts to the services in 1991, and protested at remarks about the cavalry by Field Marshal Lord Carver, saying that field marshals never retired because "they had to defeat the Queen's enemies in the murky future and to harass the politicians accordingly".

Despite his distinguished military career, in which he had been wounded with every regiment with which he had served, "Bala" Bredin stressed that he was not a warmonger, "I've seen too much of war to like it," he would say. But he felt that while there were ambitious, ruthless people of every nationality, war of some form or other was probably inevitable, and that Britain should be prepared for all possible contingencies and not count on "peace in our time".

He married first, in 1947 (dissolved 1961), Jacqueline Geare; they had a daughter. He married secondly, in 1965, Ann Hardie; they had two daughters.
Vietnam Repatriates U.S. Soldier Remains
Associated Press
March 4, 2005

HANOI, Vietnam - The suspected remains of an American soldier killed during the Vietnam War were flown home on Thursday, four decades after U.S. troops first landed in the country to fight.

Under rainy skies, a U.S. military honor guard loaded a flag-draped aluminum coffin onto an Air Force C-130 at Danang International Airport, in central Vietnam, before it headed off to a forensics laboratory in Hawaii for further identification.

"We want to continue the commitment" to account for all the missing in action from the war, said Lt. Col. Lentfort Mitchell, commander of the office for missing U.S. servicemen in Vietnam.

In addition to the remains, two boxes of artifacts were also shipped back, he said. The remains were recovered during excavation efforts in central and southern Vietnam.

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of U.S. troops landing in Danang on March 8, 1965, the official start of a decade-long war that ended in 1975. The war took the lives of 58,000 Americans and an estimated three million Vietnamese.

Also Thursday, a U.S. military team of about 100 people flew into Danang as part of continuing U.S. efforts to locate about 1,800 soldiers still listed as missing. Since 1973, more than 700 sets of remains have been recovered and identified.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the end of the war in April 1975, with the fall of Saigon, the capital of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government, to communist forces.

One of our Italian comrades was killed in a blue on blue, the story is below.

U.S. friendly fire kills one Italian

By Patrick Quinn

BAGHDAD -- American troops fired on a car carrying Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena as it took her to freedom yesterday after a month in captivity, killing the intelligence officer who helped negotiate her release and injuring the reporter.
    Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, an ally of the United States who has kept troops in Iraq despite public opposition at home, demanded an explanation from the U.S. ambassador, Mel Sembler.
    "Given that the fire came from an American source, I called in the American ambassador," Mr. Berlusconi told reporters before the U.S. statement acknowledging that coalition forces shot at the vehicle. "I believe we must have an explanation for such a serious incident, for which someone must take the responsibility."
    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said "details are still unclear" but "we regret the loss of life."
    "We are coordinating closely with Italian authorities in Iraq to investigate the incident. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the Italian citizen," Mr. McClellan said.
    The U.S. military said the car was speeding as it approached a coalition checkpoint in western Baghdad at 8:55 p.m. Soldiers shot into the engine block only after trying to warn the driver to stop by "hand and arm signals, flashing white lights, and firing warning shots."
    The Americans said two persons were wounded, but Mr. Berlusconi said there were three -- Miss Sgrena and two intelligence officers. One of the officers was in serious condition with an apparent lung injury, according to the Apcom news agency in Italy. The U.S. military said Army medics treated a wounded man but that "he refused medical evacuation for further assistance."
    Gabriele Polo, the editor of Miss Sgrena's newspaper, Il Manifesto, said the intelligence agent was killed when he threw himself over Miss Sgrena to protect her from U.S. fire, Apcom reported.
    Mr. Berlusconi identified the dead intelligence officer as Nicola Calipari and said he had been at the forefront of negotiations with the kidnappers. The prime minister said Mr. Calipari had been involved in the release of Italian hostages in the past.
    U.S. troops took Miss Sgrena to an American military hospital, where shrapnel was removed from her left shoulder, he said.
    Miss Sgrena, 56, was abducted Feb. 4 by gunmen who blocked her car outside Baghdad University. Last month, she was shown in a video pleading for her life and demanding that all foreign troops -- including Italian forces -- leave Iraq.
    Mr. Berlusconi said he had been celebrating Miss Sgrena's release with the editor of Il Manifesto, and with Miss Sgrena's boyfriend, Pier Scolari, when he took a phone call from an agent who informed them of the shooting.
    "It's a shame that the joy we all felt was turned into tragedy," Mr. Berlusconi said.
    The shooting came as a blow to Mr. Berlusconi, who has kept 3,000 troops in Iraq despite strong opposition in Italy. The shooting is likely to spark new protests in Italy, where tens of thousands have regularly turned out on the streets to protest the Iraq war. Miss Sgrena's newspaper was a vocal opponent of the war.
    In a 2003 friendly-fire incident involving Italians, American soldiers in northern Iraq shot at a car carrying the Italian official heading U.S. efforts to recover Iraq's looted antiquities. Pietro Cordone, the top Italian diplomat in Iraq, was not hurt, but his Iraqi translator was killed.
    Mr. Cordone, also the senior adviser for cultural affairs of the U.S. provisional authority, was traveling on the road between Mosul and Tikrit when his car was fired on at a U.S. roadblock, according to an Italian Foreign Ministry official.
    The circumstances of Miss Sgrena's release were not clear.
    The Italian government announced earlier yesterday that Miss Sgrena had been freed, prompting expressions of joy and relief from officials and her family.
    Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini expressed "great joy and enormous satisfaction," the ANSA news agency said.
    The reporter's father was so overwhelmed by the news that he needed assistance from a doctor, ANSA said.
    "This is an exceptional day," Franco Sgrena was quoted as saying.
    At Il Manifesto's offices, reporters toasted the release with champagne.
    On Feb. 19, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through Rome waving rainbow peace flags to press for Miss Sgrena's release. Il Manifesto and Miss Sgrena's boyfriend organized the march.
    About 200 foreigners have been abducted in Iraq in the past year, and more than 30 of the hostages were killed.
    Another European reporter, Florence Aubenas, a veteran war correspondent for France's leftist daily Liberation, is still being held in Iraq. Miss Aubenas and her interpreter, Hussein Hanoun al-Saadi, disappeared nearly two months ago.
    Also yesterday, two members of the Shi'ite-led United Iraqi Alliance dropped out of the political group because of its inability to carve out a deal for a new prime minister after historic Jan. 30 elections.

I just found this and asked permission to post it.

Subject: USMC-USAF Fallen Marines
November 25th, 2004

I want to share with you my most recent Air Force Reserve trip. I had decided to go back into the Air Force Reserves as a part time reservist and after 6 months of
training, I have recently been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and have been fully mission qualified as an Aircraft Commander of a KC-135R strato tanker aircraft.

On Friday of last week, my crew and I were tasked with a mission to provide air refueling support in order to tanker 6 F-16's over to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. We were then to tanker back to the states, 6 more F-16's that were due maintenance. It started out as a fairly standard mission - one that I have done many times as an active duty Captain in my former jet - the KC10a extender.

We dragged the F-16's to Moron Air Base in Spain where we spent the night and then finished the first part of our mission the next day by successfully delivering them to Incirlik. When I got on the ground in Turkey, I received a message to call the Tanker Airlift Control Center that my mission would change. Instead of tankering the F-16's that were due maintenance, I was cut new orders to fly to Kuwait City and pick up 22 "HR's" and return them to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

It had been a while since I had heard of the term "HR" used, and as I pondered what the acronym could possibly stand for, when it dawned on me that it stood for human remains. There were 22 fallen comrades who had just been killed in the most recent attacks in Fallujah and Baghdad, Iraq over the last week.

I immediately alerted the crew of the mission change and although they were exhausted due to an ocean crossing, the time change and minimum ground time in Spain for crew rest, we all agreed that it was more important to get these men back to their families as soon as possible.

We were scheduled to crew rest in Incirlik, Turkey for the evening and start the mission the next day. Instead, we decided to extend/continue our day and fly to Kuwait in order to pick up our precious cargo. While on the flight over to Kuwait, I knew that there were protocol procedures for accepting and caring for human remains, however, in my 13 years of active duty service, I never once had to refer to this regulation. As I read the regulation on the flight over, I felt prepared and ready to do the mission. My game plan was to pick up the HR's and turn around to fly to Mildenhal Air Base in England, spend the night, and then fly back the next day. This was the quickest way to get them home, considering the maximum crew duty day that I could subject my crew to legally and physically. I really pushed them to the limits but no one complained at all.

I thought that I was prepared for the acceptance of these men until we landed at Kuwait International. I taxied the jet over to a staging area where the honor guard was waiting to load our soldiers. I stopped the jet and the entire crew was required to stay on board. We opened the cargo door, and according to procedure, I had the crew line up in the back of the aircraft in formation and stand at attention. As the cargo loader brought up the first pallet of caskets, I ordered the crew to "Present Arms." Normally, we would snap a salute at this command, however, when you are dealing with a fallen soldier, the salute is a slow 3 second pace to position. As I stood there and finally saw the first four of twenty-two caskets draped with the American Flags, the reality had hit me. As the Marine Corps honor guard delivered the first pallet on board, I then ordered the crew to "Order Arms" - where they rendered an equally slow 3 second return to the attention position. I then commanded the crew to assume an at ease position and directed them to properly place the pallet. The protocol requires that the caskets are to be loaded so when it comes time to exit the aircraft - they will go head first. We did this same procedure for each and every pallet until we could not fit any more.

I felt a deep pit in my stomach when there were more caskets to be brought home and that they would have to wait for the next jet to come through. I tried to do everything in my power to bring more home but I had no more space on board. When we were finally loaded, with our precious cargo and fueled for the trip back to England, a Marine Corps Colonel from first battalion came on board our jet in order to talk to us. I gathered the crew to listen to him and his words of wisdom.

He introduced himself and said that it is the motto of the Marines to leave no man behind and it makes their job easier knowing that there were men like us to help them complete this task. He was very grateful for our help and the strings that we were pulling in order to get this mission done in he most expeditious manner possible. He then said -" Major Zarnik - these are MY MARINES and I am giving them to you. Please take great care of them as I know you will." I responded with telling him that they are my highest priority and that although this was one of the
saddest days of my life, we are all up for the challenge and will go above and beyond to take care of your Marines - "Semper Fi Sir" A smile came on his face and he responded with a loud and thunderous, "Ooo Rah". He then asked me to please pass along to the families that these men were extremely brave and had made the ultimate sacrifice for their country and that we appreciate and empathize with what they are going through at this time of their grievance. With that, he departed the jet and we were on our way to England.

I had a lot of time to think about the men that I had the privilege to carry. I had a chance to read the manifest on each and every one of them. I read about their religious preferences, their marital status, the injuries that were their cause of death. All of them were under age 27 with most in the 18-24 range. Most of them had wives and children. They had all been killed by an " IED" which I can only deduce as an [improvised] explosive devices. Mostly fatal head injuries and injuries to the chest area. I could not even imagine the bravery that they must have displayed and the agony suffered in this God Forsaken War. My respect and admiration for these men and what they are doing to help others in a foreign land is beyond calculation. I know that they are all with God now and in a better place.

The stop in Mildenhal was uneventful and then we pressed on to Dover where we would meet the receiving Marine Corps honor guard. When we arrived, we applied the same procedures in reverse. The head of each casket was to come out first. This was a sign of respect rather than defeat. As the honor guard carried each and
every American flag covered casket off of the jet, they delivered them to awaiting families with military hearses. I was extremely impressed with how diligent the Honor Guard had performed the seemingly endless task of delivering each of the caskets to the families without fail and with precision. There was not a dry eye on our crew or in the crowd. The Chaplain then said a prayer followed by a speech from Lt. Col. Klaus of the second Battalion. In his speech, he also reiterated similar condolences to the families as the Colonel from First Battalion back in Kuwait.

I then went out to speak with the families as I felt it was my duty to help console them in this difficult time. Although I would probably be one of the last military contacts that they would have for a while - the military tends to take care of it's own. I wanted to make sure that they did not feel abandoned and more than that appreciated for their ultimate sacrifice. It was the most difficult thing that I have ever
done in my life. I listened to the stories of each and every one that I had come in contact with and they all displayed a sense of pride during an obviously difficult time.
The Marine Corps had obviously prepared their families well for this potential outcome.

So, why do I write this story to you all? I just wanted to put a little personal attention to the numbers that you hear about and see in the media. It is almost like we are desensitized by the "numbers" of our fallen comrades coming out of Iraq. I heard one commentator say that "it is just a number". Are you kidding me? These are our American Soldiers not numbers! It is truly a sad situation that I hope will end soon. Please hug and embrace your loved ones a little closer and know that there are men out there that are defending you and trying to make this a better world. Please pray for their families and when you hear the latest statistic's and numbers of our soldiers killed in combat, please remember this story. It is the only way that I know to more
personalize these figures and have them truly mean something to us all.

Thanks for all of your support for me and my family as I take on this new role in completing my Air Force Career and supporting our country. I greatly appreciate all of your comments, gestures and prayers.

May God Bless America, us all, and especially the United States Marine Corps.

Semper Fi

Maj. Zarnik, USAFR
Tony Branfoot
Prisoner of the Japanese who stood up for his men in the harsh conditions imposed on them in the camps of the Spice Islands

A STOCKBROKER before the Second World War, Tony Branfoot was sent out to the Dutch East Indies with a squadron of his tank regiment in 1942, and was later captured by the Japanese in Java. He spent the rest of the war in captivity, from 1943 in the camps of the Spice Islands (Moluccas).

The story of the camps in these enchantingly named islands, though little publicised, is one of deprivation and cruelty equal to anything experienced by captives of the Japanese elsewhere. Of the 4,000 to 5,000 prisoners of war sent to work in the Spice Islands â ” mainly British and Dutch servicemen â ” half had perished before the war's end. ... [more]
Spc Martinez KIA.


His blog is here : http://www.mfconsulting.com/blog/
Lieutenant-Colonel Richard van der Horst
CO of the Special Boat Service who always relished the 'sharp end' of operations

THE death in a diving accident of Lieutenant-Colonel Richard van der Horst, the commanding officer of the Royal Marines Special Boat Service (SBS), while on an amphibious exercise in Norway, has deprived the Royal Marines of one of their most promising officers. ...[more]


... Another source added: â Å“As commanding officer he didn't have to do these exercises, but he did not want to lose touch with his men. He liked to keep his hand in at the sharp end and that bravery cost him his life.â ?

When he became trapped in the sub, Van Der Horst was taking part in Nato's exercise Battle Griffin. He was with a group of SBS frogmen near the Olavsvern naval base, deep inside the Arctic Circle near Tromso. Some of the 14,000 personnel on the exercise were training in how to retake oil rigs and ships from Al-Qaeda terrorists.

In the minutes leading up to the incident, Van Der Horst was on board a six-seat Mark 8 Swimmer Delivery Vehicle (SDV). The mini submarine was designed for the US Navy Seals special forces and can carry frogmen undetected over 50 miles underwater. It has a pilot and navigator at the front, with four other men and equipment in a compartment behind. All on board must carry full diving gear, including oxygen, as the SDV has no air of its own.

A special forces source said Van Der Horst was in the back of the SDV. It seems he encountered difficulties with his oxygen supply and could not get out of the submersible.

The rest of the team were already out and swimming freely, said the source. They struggled to free Van Der Horst over the next 10 minutes as he gradually ran out of oxygen.

It is believed Van Der Horst was unconscious when he was brought to the surface. He spent a week on life support in hospital but never came round. His wife was at his bedside when he died last Monday.
... [more]