Thursday, April 14, 2011

Soldiers return to patrol after friend’s death

Spc. Brent Maher’s comrades have resumed their task of trying to bring peace to a turbulent area of Afghanistan, two days after their friend was killed by an insurgent’s bomb.

Spc. Brent Maher

“They understand what Brent stood for, and they were right back out on patrol today,” Lt. Col. Steve Boesen said by phone from Afghanistan Wednesday.

Boesen commands the Iowa National Guard’s 1-168th Battalion, which has several hundred Iowa soldiers posted in Paktia Province. They are part of the 2,800-soldier deployment of Iowa Guard troops to eastern Afghanistan.

Maher and three other members of the battalion were in an armored truck that was hit by a large bomb directly underneath the vehicle Monday. The truck flipped over, killing Maher, who had been standing in the gunner’s turret. The other three soldiers were injured.

Boesen said two of the soldiers, Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Jedlicka, 31, of Council Bluffs, and Spc. Dustin Morrison, 20, of New Market, have been flown to a military hospital in Germany, where they are listed in stable condition. The fourth soldier, Spc. Justin Christiansen, 24, of Nebraska City, Neb., sustained the least serious injuries, Boesen said. He is being assessed for a mild brain injury by medical staff members in Afghanistan.

Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Jedlicka

The four men belonged to the battalion’s Bravo Company, which is stationed at Combat Outpost Dand Patan, a few hundred yards from the Pakistan border. The soldiers were traveling in a routine supply convoy on a well-maintained, heavily used dirt road about 20 miles from their base when the bomb went off, their commander said.

The truck was a 32,000-pound, six-wheeled Cougar model of the Army’s new Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. “That’s probably our most survivable MRAP,” Boesen said, adding that the tragedy might have been worse if the men had been riding in a smaller truck...

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