Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Our friends, the Bosnians

Iraq arms 'leaking to insurgents' The United Nations agency responsible for decommissioning weapons in Eastern Europe has criticised arms exports to Iraq.
Seesac has told File On 4 that the sale of large numbers of guns from Bosnia has compromised its operation.
There are also concerns that some pistols flown from the UK which were intended for Iraqi police are now in the hands of insurgents.
A Foreign Office Minister is being pressed for details of security checks.
I don't think that people in the UK would want the UK Government to agree to export licences that would result effectively in weapons going through the Iraqi police into the hands of insurgents and then being used to kill British soldiers Labour MP Roger Berry
When Saddam Hussein was toppled from power, about 20 million weapons were estimated to be in Iraq.
Millions more have come in since because of the continuing conflict.
Paradoxically, back in 2004 the emerging Iraqi security forces were struggling to get weapons, ammunition and other equipment they needed.
The US struck a deal with the Bosnian authorities to open up its stockpiles of weapons left over from the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
It aimed to send these weapons to help Iraq's new army.
Tuesday, 23 May 2006
Repeated Sunday 28 May, 1700 BST
But the UN is involved in a programme of trying to destroy those weapons with the co-operation of the host nation authorities.
The EU would also prefer to see those guns put out of harm's way, with Britain among the countries giving money to assist that process.
The head of Seesac, the UN agency trying to develop safe and effective weapons policies across the Balkans, says they were not consulted about the US deal and that it has made arms control more difficult.
Adrian Wilkinson told File On 4: "We have a range of projects in the region to destroy surplus weapons to counter the risks of proliferation, to reduce the chances of them turning up on the grey and the black markets and fuelling conflict.
"And yet it is very difficult for us to negotiate with governments in the region to destroy their surplus weapons whilst they feel that the United States is going to come along and buy them to re-equip the new armed forces of Iraq."
Complex operation
File On 4 has learnt that about 200,000 weapons and 40 to 50 million rounds of ammunition have been exported by Bosnia to Iraq under this deal.
Some experts say there is a need for this amount of weapons in Iraq to help protect the security forces.
But organisations like Amnesty International are concerned about the complexity of this procurement operation.
The Americans have effectively appointed a main contractor - a small business based in Alabama - which has then had to subcontract middlemen, traders and brokers all over Europe.
Amnesty says that this makes it hard to know who is buying what and what has been sent where.
Paper trail
One case investigated by File On 4 highlighted this difficulty.
The programme has been shown paperwork about a consignment of 20,000 AK-47 type assault rifles by Eufor, the EU peacekeeping force which provides a safeguard for Bosnian weapon transfers.
It shows they were imported by a company in the north of England called York Guns Limited which sells shotguns and sporting rifles.
Its managing director Gary Hyde would not be interviewed but denied having imported the AK-47s. A third party dealer had legally brought them into the UK, he claimed.
Foreign Office Minister Dr Kim Howells also refused to be interviewed about the matter. He has been questioned by MPs about a different company who exported 20,000 Italian Beretta pistols from the UK to Iraq.
Staff in Baghdad found no firm evidence to support the concern about the weapons falling into the wrong hands Foreign Office statement
This is part of the same drive to re-equip Iraqi security forces and there have been concerns that some of these sidearms have fallen into the hands of insurgents.
MPs on the Quadripartite Committee which scrutinises Britain's arms exports asked Dr Howells for clarification.
The committee chairman, Labour's Roger Berry, said: "I wasn't satisfied with the response to our questions at the public evidence session.
"That's why I'm pursuing the matter further with the Foreign Office.
"I don't think that people in the UK would want the UK Government to agree to export licences that would result effectively in weapons going through the Iraqi police into the hands of insurgents and then being used to kill British soldiers.
"The question I want to ask is 'What measures has the UK government taken or not taken in relation to the allegation that the weapons have been diverted from the Iraqi police to insurgents?'
"That, for me, is the number one question."
A Foreign Office spokesman told the BBC in a statement that all export licence applications were assessed rigorously, including consideration of the internal situation in the destination country and the risk of diversion to an undesirable end use.
It said staff in Baghdad had found no firm evidence to support the concern about the weapons falling into the wrong hands.
However, File On 4 has obtained copies of Italian prosecutors' documents which show otherwise.
The prosecutors' office in Brescia, the hometown of Beretta where a criminal investigation is taking place into aspects of this deal, confirmed that serial numbers on pistols found in possession of what are described as "hostile forces" relate to the consignment sent from Beretta to the UK and then onwards to Iraq. File On 4: BBC Radio 4, Tuesday, 23 May 2006 at 2000 GMT and repeated on Sunday 28 May, 2006 at 1700 GMT. Or listen online - see links on the right hand side of this page.

Staff Sgt. Christian Longsworth

Afghanistan war claims Jerseyan
Small-arms attack kills Newarker in Special Forces
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Early in March, just before Army Staff Sgt. Christian Longsworth was deployed to Afghanistan, he came home to Newark one last time.
He made a point of spending time with his mother, Cecilia, to whom he was devoted, and his girlfriend, Jessica Cruz, whom he loved. He also found time to pal around with the young men with whom he had grown up.
"It was kind of weird. He was getting in touch with all these people who had been an influence in his life," one of those friends, 25-year-old Devin Carroll, recalled yesterday. "It was almost like he had a premonition about what was going to happen to him."
Yesterday, many of the same people Longsworth sought out that week got together at his mother's house in Newark to mourn him.
Longsworth, 26, who was with the Special Forces, was killed Friday in Afghanistan. The Defense Department, which announced his death yesterday, said Longsworth died in Oruzgan province after his convoy came under small-arms fire. The soldier was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Longsworth is the fifth soldier from New Jersey, or with ties to the state, to be killed in Afghanistan since December 2002.
Friends cried and laughed as they recalled his life. Longsworth was one of those young men who had seemed to find himself in the military, they said.
He was proud of being a soldier, positive about the cause, realistic about the danger -- he had been wounded by a grenade in Iraq -- but upbeat.
"He said, 'I'm not afraid to die,'" said Cruz, his girlfriend.
"If there were bullets flying, Chris didn't back down. I know he was the first one that would protect the group," said Miguel Ramos, 27, another friend. "That was his responsibility. That was it. He would never allow any of his guys to go down before he did."
In the living room of her home on Smith Street, his mother, a native of Honduras, wiped away tears. "He's a hero," Cecilia Longsworth, a home health aide, said in Spanish, holding up a wooden plaque given to her son by the Army.
His father, Roy, a longshoreman at Port Newark who came to this country from El Salvador, died six years ago.
Longsworth was born in the Bronx and moved to Newark with his parents and older brother, Roy Jr., when he was 2. He attended St. Joseph's Elementary School in East Orange and, for three years, Essex Catholic High School, also in East Orange.
He spent his final year of high school at Newark's West Side High School and graduated in 1998. At West Side, Longsworth played a number of sports, including soccer, wrestling, track and baseball.
After graduation, he was not sure what to do. His brother, Roy, a make-up artist who lives in Puerto Rico, flew to New Jersey to give him advice. Though Roy was 17 years older than Christian, the two were very close.
"He was more than a brother, he was like a son," Roy Longsworth, 42, said yesterday at his mother's home, a two-family house near the East Orange border. "I said, 'You have to do something with your life. Either get a job or go back to school.'"
Christian decided to enlist in the Army. Proud of his decision, he went back to his old elementary school and told a former teacher, Sister Antoinette, what he planned to do.
"She said, 'This is the first time I saw him so focused,'" his friend Carroll said yesterday.
Longsworth served with the 31st Infantry Regiment at Fort Drum, N.Y., for two years. In 2001, he became a member of the training cadre for the 6th Ranger Training Battalion at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. Three years later, he volunteered for Special Forces.
Last year, Chris, Roy and their mother celebrated Christmas together for the first time in 18 years. The reunion took place in Puerto Rico.
The following month, Chris telephoned Roy, saying he wanted to return to Puerto Rico.
"I asked, "Why, what's wrong?'" Roy Longsworth said yesterday. "He was like, 'Don't worry. I just want to be with you.'"
Christian visited again. When he left, he told his brother he was about to go on a mission.
Roy Longsworth wept yesterday while recalling his last words: "He said he was not sure he would be coming back because he knew someday something could happen."
In March, a month after completing Special Forces training, Longsworth was deployed to Afghanistan.
In addition to his mother and brother, Longsworth is survived by a daughter, Jaylin Araya, 5, of Newark.
His body was due to arrive home today.
Longsworth will be buried in Puerto Rico, according to his brother.
"He loved Puerto Rico. I know he'll be happy there," Roy Longsworth said. "All the years we didn't spend together -- now I'll have him near me for the rest of my life."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Capt. Nichola Goddard

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - Canada suffered its first-ever death of female combat soldier during a lengthy firefight with Taliban insurgents Wednesday evening.
Capt. Nichola Goddard, of 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery based in Shilo, Man., was killed in action at 6:55 p.m. local time, 24 kilometres west of Kandahar city, said Brig.-Gen. David Fraser, commander of the multinational brigade based in Kandahar.
Goddard's age and hometown were not immediately available. She was married, with no children.
"Our hearts, our prayers and our sympathies go out to the family of Nichola Goddard," said Fraser, standing in front of a Canadian flag at half-mast.
"It's a hard day but it's also a day of achievements here. The government of Afghanistan and the Afghan national security forces have had a good successful day. There was significant Taliban casualties both killed and captured."
"Unfortunately, the cost today was the life of Nichola."
Although Canadian women lost their lives in action in both the First and Second World Wars, Goddard was the first to do so in a combat role.
"I believe it's safe to say she was the first woman in a combat-arms military occupation (such as artillery, infantry, or armoured) killed in front-line combat," said Lieut. Morgan Bailey, a media liaison officer in Ottawa.
Goddard was serving as a forward artillery observer, helping to target the artillery guns by observing where the shells fell.
Combat roles were first opened to Canadian women in 1990.
Canadian forces were acting in support of the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army, who had received information a large number of Taliban fighters were massing in the Panjwai district, about 24 kilometres west of Kandahar, an area that has seen off-on fighting for weeks, said Fraser.
Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, to which Goddard had been attached, were supporting the Afghans by forming a ring around the battle area, Fraser said.
"We were there to back them up and support them, providing outer cordons. All the inner work was being done by the Afghan security forces."
Coalition air support was also involved.
Details were still sketchy around Goddard's death, said Fraser.
"There was a firefight out there and sometime during the firefight she was killed."
Fighting had stopped Wednesday night but Fraser said the operation was expected to continue Thursday.
As debate about Canada's mission raged on Parliament Hill, Fraser said the commitment of Goddard and all Canadian soldiers has never wavered.
"This is an important mission," he said.
"This a mission that the soldiers believe in. This is a mission that the soldiers continue to go out every day and prosecute with passion."
"Nichola was doing a job that she loved. Everyone around me said that she loved what she was doing."
"She's indicative of all the men and women serving over here in Afghanistan and Canadians should be proud of the work that their soldiers are doing in a very difficult environment."
"But the Afghan people deserve no less than our continued support to see through this fight to its end."
Five women were killed in action in the Second World War. The First World War saw 29 female combat deaths.
Goddard has become the 17th Canadian killed in Afghanistan since 2002: one diplomat and 16 soldiers, including four who died in the friendly-fire bombing by a U.S. plane.
Her death came on a day when Canadian troops tried to relax and enjoy themselves.
Earlier that afternoon, the military had relaxed its strict no-alcohol policy allowing soldiers two bottles of beer apiece to sip in the hot Afghan sun and the evening saw a four-hour musical performance by Canadian stars such as singer Michelle Wright.
In Ottawa, Prime Minister Stephen Harper expressed the regret of a mourning country.
"Captain Goddard died while helping to bring peace, stability and democracy to a troubled region of the world," Harper said in a statement.
"She and the other men and women who serve in Afghanistan are involved in a difficult and dangerous mission. They are serving our country and its people with distinction."
"Our nation will not forget their sacrifice."
Manitoba Premier Gary Doer also expressed regret.
"On behalf of the people of Manitoba, we respect her life of bravery and honour on behalf of Canada and we offer our condolences to the family and to the community of Shilo," he told CJOB radio in Winnipeg.
Canada has about 2,300 troops in Afghanistan, most of them in Kandahar, as part of an international effort to help the Kabul government assert its authority and fight Taliban insurgents, who have been engaging the U.S.-led coalition and NATO forces in hostilities in many parts of the country.
Kandahar, in the south, is regarded as a hotbed of insurgent attacks and the spiritual home of the extremist Taliban movement.
The Taliban were ousted from power by U.S.-led forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The Taliban regime was blamed for harbouring Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization while it was in power.
naked truth

Paging Bob Dornan

B-1Bs join the battle in Afghanistan
By Bruce Rolfsen
Times staff writer B-1B Lancer bombers have taken up the fight in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a B-1B and four A-10 Warthogs joined the effort to drive Taliban fighters out of the Panjway District in southern Afghanistan, according an Air Force statement.The Air Force jets in two separate attacks released laser-guided 2,000-pound Paveway II bombs and unguided 500-pound bombs.The missions marked the first attacks by a B-1B since the bombers arrived in the region May 6.The air attacks were coordinated with Canadian soldiers and members of the Afghan army and police.During the day-long fight, one Canadian soldier died, the Canadian military said. She was Capt. Nichola Goddard, the first female Canadian soldier to die in combat since World War II.On the Taliban side, 18 insurgents were killed and 26 captured, officials said.That same day, A-10s flew close-air support missions close to the Pakistan border, targeting insurgents near Asmar and Jalalabad.

Maliki sees own forces running most of Iraq end-year

BAGHDAD, May 22 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday he believed Iraqi forces could take over security in most of the country by the end of this year.
"There's an agreement and, according to this schedule for handing over security, Samawa and Amara provinces will be handed over to Iraqis in June and by the end of this year this operation will be completed except for Baghdad and maybe Anbar," he told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Blair declined to be drawn on a timetable for withdrawal but stressed that foreign troops would pull out as fast as Iraqi forces were able to take over. Earlier, one of his officials said all foreign combat troops could be gone in four years.
Samawa and Amara are southern, Shi'ite provinces, largely peaceful and controlled by British troops whose commanders have said they may withdraw from some provinces soon. Anbar is the restive western desert stronghold of Sunni Arab insurgents.
Maliki's timetable, which would coincide with the expiry of a United Nations mandate for the U.S.-led coalition forces, is more ambitious than anything voiced publicly by U.S. or British commanders, who stress that any withdrawal will depend on Iraqi forces being able to ensure security.
Maliki also said Iraqi forces needed more training as the foreign withdrawal proceeded province by province and he warned that if his policy of disarming and disbanding militias failed, it could yet lead to "civil war".

never ending war

Security is Everything

Iraq could double oil output with security SHARM EL-SHEIKH: Iraqi officials believe they can double their daily oil output quickly if a new government improves security, US Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Monday.
Snow spoke to reporters travelling with him after a private meeting with Sinan al-Shabibi, Iraq’s central bank governor, about conditions in Iraq now that a new national unity government is in place.
“The governor indicated he thought it was well within reason to think that with security, and the investment that would come with security, Iraq would have daily production through the pipeline on the order of 3 to 3.5 million (barrels) and that could be achieved quickly,” said Snow. Snow said Iraq’s daily production was running at around 1.6 million barrels.
Shabibi, accompanied by heavy security, did not speak to reporters.
“The framework has now been put in place, but that framework can only produce good economic results when the missing ingredient security is in place,” Snow said. “Security is now everything in terms of the path forward.”
The two held a separate meeting on Monday. Iraq’s newly named finance minister, Bayan Jabor, was not in Egypt for the discussions.
“With security will come investments, with security will come much better performance of the electricity sector, which had been badly hurt by saboteurs. With security will come investment in oil and much higher oil output,” Snow said.

never ending war

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Pfc. Brian M. Moquin Jr.

Worcester soldier among 10 killed in Afghanistan crash
WORCESTER, Mass. -- A 19-year-old Worcester man was among 10 soldiers killed when their helicopter crashed during combat operations in eastern Afghanistan last week, the Army announced Wednesday.
Pfc. Brian M. Moquin Jr. died Friday in the remote mountains of Kunar Province, Afghanistan, after the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter crashed while on a mission to find al-Qaida and Taliban militants believed to be hiding in the rugged terrain near the border with Pakistan.
Army officials said the helicopter was conducting operations on a mountaintop landing zone when it fell into a ravine. All 10 soldiers aboard the helicopter were killed.
Military officials said the helicopter was not downed by hostile fire. An investigation into the cause of the crash is continuing, Julie Curren, a spokeswoman for the Army, said Wednesday.
Moquin's mother, Tracy Vaillancourt, said she was in Chicago on a business trip Sunday morning when an Army officer called her on her cell phone and told her of the death of her only child.
"He was too young," Vaillancourt told the Telegram and Gazette of Worcester. "He just wanted to do something to make everybody proud. I'm very proud of him."
Vaillancourt said that from a young age, her son had expressed interest in joining the military.
Moquin enlisted in the Army in March 2005 and attended basic training at Fort Knox, Ky.
He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in August and deployed to Afghanistan in February.
Moquin had received numerous military awards and decorations, including the Bronze Star, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Afghan Campaign Medal and Combat Action Badge.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Father mourns Afghanistan death
Port Orange man's son killed Friday in Army helicopter crashKen Ma and Rebecca Mahoney Sentinel Staff Writers
PORT ORANGE -- An Army officer whose father lives in Volusia County was among 10 soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, the military said Wednesday.Lt. Col. Joseph J. Fenty Jr., 41, of Watertown, N.Y., was killed Friday when the CH-47 Chinook transport helicopter fell into a ravine during a mountaintop landing in Kunar Province.Fenty was the commander of the 10th Mountain Division's 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, The Associated Press reported.His father, also named Joseph Fenty, lives in Port Orange. He did not want to comment Wednesday night. A neighbor, who would not give her name, said the family was told about Fenty's death during the weekend."It's a terrible tragedy," she said.Fenty became a commissioned officer in June 1986 after graduating from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, N.C., AP reported. He was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division in 1997 and was deployed to Bosnia, then to Afghanistan in March 2002.In June 2004, he took command of the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, a part of the division's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, AP reported.He is survived by his wife, Kristen; a daughter; and his parents.Three other soldiers from Fenty's unit were killed. The six other soldiers who were killed were assigned to the division's 3rd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment.Last year, Fenty was among about 230 officers from the 10th Mountain Brigade Combat Team who participated in a 10.4-mile motivational brigade run. In an interview with the Fort Drum Blizzard, a military newsletter, Fenty hailed his fellow officers for their spirit of cooperation and partnership."I think it was awesome to get all the brigade officers out there with a team-building focus," he said. "And most importantly, they were all together at the finish line cheering each other on."

CWO Eric W. Totten

St. Paul native dies in helicopter crash in Afghanistan
Pilot who grew up in Frogtown was on second tour of duty
Pioneer Press
A combat-hardened Army helicopter pilot who grew up in St. Paul's Frogtown neighborhood was among the 10 U.S. troops killed Friday in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, his family and the military said Wednesday.
Chief Warrant Officer Eric W. Totten, who would have celebrated his 35th birthday Wednesday, was a veteran of military actions in Bosnia and Iraq and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.
He died with nine others when a CH-47 helicopter crashed while scouring remote Afghan mountains along the Pakistan border for al-Qaida and Taliban militants as part a major action involving U.S. and Afghan troops.
The military said the crash was not caused by hostile fire, though Taliban forces claimed to have shot down the helicopter. It was the deadliest single incident for U.S. forces in Afghanistan in a year and is still being investigated.
A Defense Department announcement did not identify Totten as the pilot of the helicopter. But his older brother, Noel Totten of Bloomington said Totten was rated to fly helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft and was primarily serving as a pilot.
"I never really worried about him because he was so intelligent and competent and because he wasn't cocky," Noel Totten said. "I worried about the younger ones, the 19- and 20-year-olds, but not Eric."
The son of a prominent Twin Cities building contractor, Totten grew up on Lafond Avenue in the Frogtown neighborhood and attended Ramsey Junior High School before his family moved to Golden Valley.
Noel Totten said a major change in his brother's life occurred when a close childhood friend died of drug-related causes.
"He said, 'I don't want to go that way — I want to make something of myself,' " Noel Totten recalled. "And he did. We're very proud of him."
Eric Totten joined the Army shortly after graduating from high school and took Ranger training before getting into aviation. A bachelor, he moved at the whim of Army. He had recently been living in Fort Campbell, Ky., the home of the 101st Airborne Division.
In Afghanistan, he was with the 3rd Battalion, 10th Aviation Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. The division is based in Fort Drum, N.Y.
One of six children, Totten was fond of dropping in on his siblings and their families — he had 21 nieces and nephews — at their homes in various parts of the country.
A cousin, Avalon Totten-Denton, posted a note on a Web site that was created after the family learned of the aviator's death. The Web site is filled with slideshows of family gatherings, with many pictures of Eric Totten at birthday parties and at family gatherings near a lake.
"I wish there was a way to set off fireworks on this site because encounters with Eric were always such a blast," Totten-Denton wrote. "Until we meet again, enjoy the ride, my friend. Bless you for your sacrifice and know you are forever loved."
Noel Totten said his brother loved the military and living an active, athletic life, though he was also an accomplished musician who played piano and a number of other instruments.
"They were always training and promoting him," Totten said of his brother's Army career. "He was always excited about his next new challenge. They gave him a lot of pats on the back."
Totten's funeral will be Saturday in Augusta, Kan., where the family has a burial plot. He will be laid to rest near his parents.
His survivors, in addition to Noel, his eldest brother, include a sister, Thais Hinz, of Duluth. Other siblings are a sister, Judy Jackson of Oklahoma City, and brothers Jim of Tallahassee, Fla., and Ottis of New Orleans.
Totten is the third Minnesota soldier to die in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. Three Wisconsin soldiers also have been killed there.
At least 234 U.S. military personnel have died in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan and Uzbekistan since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime, according to the Defense Department.
More than 2,400 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the war started there in March 2003. The total includes 30 Minnesota military deaths and 52 Wisconsin military deaths.
The Totten family's memorial site is online at at www.eric-totten.memory-of.com.

World Reviews

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

'Don't let me die!'

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- "Don't let me die! Please, don't let me die," the U.S. soldier said repeatedly as medics carried him to the trauma room.
His glazed eyes focused on an Army chaplain kneeling over him. There was blood everywhere.
A roadside bomb that exploded next to his patrol vehicle sent shards of metal into his body and catapulted him from the vehicle.
He, like so many of the gravely wounded soldiers in Iraq, was rushed to the 10th Combat Support Hospital, where minutes or seconds can mean life or death. (Watch: Suffering and hope inside a Baghdad military hospital -- 3:33)
"Am I going to live?" he asked, in a pleading, rhythmic voice.
"Hell, yes, you are," replied Lt. Col. David Steinbruner, one of the doctors.
Moments earlier, the soldier asked the medics to keep his leg from falling off the gurney as they hurried him into the emergency room. The blast tore the flesh from the bone. His left hand was just as bad -- a "near amputation," according to one of the doctors.
Less than 5 feet away, a friend and fellow soldier lay dead, his body placed in a black body bag and zipped up.
"It's life and death, every day," said Lt. Col. Bob Mazur, another doctor.
These men and women -- doctors, medics and nurses, many of them just 20 or 21 years old -- have saved the lives of numerous servicemen and women who in any previous war may have come home in flag-draped coffins.
CNN has withheld the names of the wounded soldiers for privacy concerns.
In Iraq, roughly 17,500 U.S. troops have been wounded, and nearly 2,500 have been killed. The survival rate is significantly higher than in previous wars, and much credit goes to those working to save lives in places such as the 10th Combat Support Hospital.
"If you look at the overall death rate ... the case fatality rate is cut in half from Vietnam to now. And again I think that's due to better training, tactical combat casualty training," said Col. John Holcomb, the senior surgeon at the hospital.
At least eight doctors and nurses worked on the soldier with the shredded leg -- their arms and clothes drenched in his blood. His femur protruded from his upper thigh.
A nurse clutched one of his hands.
Outside in the hall, sat the clothes of these wounded men -- or their "battle rattle," as it's called. Flak jackets lay blown in half, boots drenched in blood.
Down the hall, a private first class who was driving the vehicle was put gingerly on a bed. He was in better shape than his comrades despite bad burns on his hands and metal in his neck. Still filled with adrenaline, he breathlessly relived the attack for the nurse.
"It just exploded. On the left side or under the vehicle -- I'm not sure. Everything was on fire," he said. "I got out through the gunner's position and got one more out."
As the doctors and nurses work, the captain of the wounded soldiers' unit sat, head in hands, torn up. At times, he spoke to his commanding officer, a major, in an inaudible tone. Single tears ran down his cheeks.
The private called his wife and explained what happened, followed by a short smile. "I'm fine, I'm going to be OK. That's fine, fine; you just go ahead and pray. Pray."
Steinbruner took the phone and spoke soothingly: "He's going to be fine -- you hang in there now." He turned, shaking his head: "She's totally in shock."
'Don't die on me'
Back in the main trauma room, the soldier hung on, fighting with every breath. He remained conscious. Steinbruner suggested putting him under anesthesia completely.
"He's a sick boy. We need to put him down. He's totally with it. He said, 'Please, don't let me die.'"
"Just breathe deep -- there we go, nice and deep. ... You're a healthy guy," Steinbruner told the soldier.
"I'm not going to die -- am I?"
"Look, I promise -- I wouldn't lie to you," Steinbruner said.
Serving as both doctor and impromptu commanding officer, Steinbruner added, "Don't you dare try to die on me. I didn't give you permission."
Through a condensed face mask, the soldier wheezed and coughed, "Am I gonna lose the f------ leg?"
"I don't know," Steinbruner replied. "We'll try to save it if we can, OK? I just don't know. I can't give you an answer on that."
The near dozen doctors, medics and nurses stopped the blood from pouring out of him and prepared to send him to surgery in an attempt to save his leg and hand.
"Thank you, sir," Steinbruner said to the senior surgeon, Holcomb, while taking off his blood-drenched gloves and tossing them in the trash.
The surgery was a success. The soldier survived and kept his leg for the time being. Once close to death, he is now being treated at a U.S. military facility in Germany.
"He asked me if he's going to lose his leg, and I said, 'I don't know,' " Steinbruner said minutes after working to save the soldier's life. "I never lie to them. I'll say to them, 'I just don't know.' It was tough. It's tough."
He paused in thought. "That's the kind of thing we face out there. ... I mean ... I think there were several killed out there as well."
He paused again and said, "I'm now going to go take care of his buddy." And then he walked away and went back to work.

Lance Corporal Michael Louis Ford

Marine who died in Iraq is remembered
His father sings as mourners sob
By Megan Tench, Globe Staff May 10, 2006
NORTH DARTMOUTH -- Wearing a necktie designed with the American flag, Joseph Ford Sr. slowly stepped forward yesterday, glanced down at his son's coffin, and then sang a hymn that broke the hearts of the mourners gathered inside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
''I'll go where you want me to go," Ford sang, with his eyes closed and his voice cracking amid sobs of anguish from the crowd.
His son, Lance Corporal Michael Louis Ford, a 19-year-old Marine from New Bedford, was killed on April 26 when the tank he was driving struck a roadside bomb during combat in Al Anbar Province.
Ford, known to many in his hometown as Mikey, had been in Iraq for a month, family members said. In 2004, after watching President Bush in a televised speech talk about the war in Iraq, Ford decided to join the Marines, they said.
As rain poured outside the church, hundreds of mourners paid their respects to a young man who dedicated his life to the service of others. Teenagers from the culinary program at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School, where Ford graduated in 2004, packed the pews and folding chairs, many wearing shirts and jackets emblazoned with Ford's picture. Dignitaries, including Governor Mitt Romney and Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford, sat facing the crowd of police officers, Marines, mother, fathers, and children.
''I have Mikey in my heart," said Barbara Owen, a friend who spoke on behalf of the family. She told tales of watching Ford grow up, and his visits to her home, particularly after his mother died of heart failure in 2002. Owen's words came out slow and painstakingly, as she described a loyal and trustworthy child who grew up to be an honorable man.
''I enjoyed Michael's sense of humor," she said, with a small smile. ''Sometimes I didn't get the joke."
As a youngster, Ford was a member of the 4-H Club, helped his mother plant a garden at Hayden-McFadden Elementary School, and often delivered food and created holiday greeting cards for the elderly. As a student at Keith Junior High School, Ford helped the staff install computers, she said.
''Michael and his family had a lot of difficulties in their lives," Owen said. ''I always felt Mikey has the ability to understand what life laid before him. Mikey, my Mikey, was a frequent visitor in my home. I was the only one who could pat his cheeks and kiss him on the forehead. I always told him I loved him."
Owen then stared at the coffin.
''There is so much left unsaid," she whispered, as Ford's father wiped away tears.
''We will always love you very much," she said.
Ford was buried with full military honors at National Veterans Cemetery in Bourne.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Marine Capt. Brian S. Letendre

Dutiful Marine Had 'Followed His Heart' Back to Iraq
By Stephanie McCrummenWashington Post Staff WriterSaturday, May 6, 2006; B02
Capt. Brian S. Letendre had survived one tour in Iraq. In the early days of the invasion, his Marine battalion had rolled north from Kuwait, engaged in heavy combat at Nasiriyah and elsewhere, and Letendre had come through it all decorated with a "V" for valor.
He made it home to Woodbridge, to his wife, Autumn, and his newborn son, Dillon.
Even after two years of calm, though, Letendre never felt comfortable knowing his fellow Marines were still fighting a war, his friends and family said. So he volunteered to go back, accepting perhaps one of the most dangerous assignments the war has to offer.
Three weeks ago, Letendre returned to train Iraqi soldiers. He was killed Wednesday when a suicide car bomber attacked his observation post in Anbar province, military officials and family said. He was 27.
"Brian just didn't feel right being back here in the U.S. while other Marines were serving overseas," his family and friends wrote in a statement. ". . . Despite others telling him to stay back and be safe, Brian could not resist his call to duty."
Brian Letendre grew up in Woodbridge. He was a good student with a competitive streak, his friends said, and was captain of the soccer team at Potomac High School, where he graduated in 1996. He went on to Milligan College in Tennessee, graduating in 2000 with a degree in computer science and a wife, his college sweetheart, Autumn.
He and two childhood buddies had decided about the same time to join the Marines, and Letendre was commissioned a lieutenant in May 2000.
"It was kind of an unspoken thing we all wanted to do," said Capt. David Bann, one of the friends. "We all wanted to get out there and serve our country."
Letendre trained at the Quantico Marine Base to become a military infantry officer. He was deployed to Okinawa, Japan; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; and then to Kuwait at the start of the war. His son was born the day before he crossed into Iraq.
He returned from Iraq in May 2003 and was assigned a year later to the Marine Forces Reserve Inspector/Instructor staff in Plainville, Conn. Although he did not talk about it much, Bann said, Letendre was anxious to return to Iraq.
"He just didn't feel like sitting back," Bann said. "He wanted to do his part."
Letendre volunteered for an 11-man "military transition" team that was to train Iraqi army recruits, who have been so relentlessly targeted by suicide bombers. Three weeks ago, the job took him to Tammin, in the Anbar province of Iraq -- the swath of desert west of Baghdad considered the heart of the Sunni Arab insurgent movement.
On Monday, Letendre sent his wife an e-mail saying that he missed her and Dillon dearly but that he felt proud to be serving in Iraq. On Wednesday, he was killed. Military officials did not specify where Letendre was in Anbar when the suicide bomber attacked. Letendre's family said he was on foot when his post "received a complex attack," including from a car bomber carrying an improvised explosive device.
In the family's statement, Letendre's parents, Milton and June Letendre, said they believed in their son and what he was doing in Iraq.
"Several times throughout his life, Brian could have chosen the easier or more comfortable path, but he didn't," the statement read. "He . . . followed his heart to where he felt he could help make this world a better place."
Besides his parents, his wife and 3-year-old son, Letendre is survived by his two brothers, Justin and Nick. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.


Running to Remember

Soldiers in Afghanistan run to remember fallen Vermonter
May 6, 2006
BURLINGTON, Vt. --A Vermont Army National Guard member killed in March was honored by fellow soldiers in Afghanistan who ran a marathon in his memory.
Two guard members who served with Master Sgt. John Thomas Stone, 52, of Tunbridge, ran the 26.2 mile foot race on Friday.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Cover of Richmond and Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Westover of Jericho ran the marathon in Herat, Afghanistan, Jessica Cover wrote in an e-mail to the Burlington Free Press.
Stone spent eight years of his life walking around the world.