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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 15, 2006

25th Infantry takes over

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

The 25th Infantry Division uncased its colors for the first time in Iraq on Tuesday, and for just the second time since the Vietnam War.

In doing so, Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon assumed command of Multinational Division-North and 21,000 U.S. troops in northern Iraq.

"Our mission here is clear," Mixon said at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit. "(It's) to provide our Iraqi friends and counterparts the assistance they need to take over their own security."

The primary job for Task Force Lightning a reference to the 25th Division's "Tropic Lightning" nickname here will be to train Iraqi forces. The soldiers are taking over for the departing 101st Airborne Division.

"It is dangerous every day," Brig. Gen. John M. "Mick" Bednarek, deputy commanding general for operations, said last week. "The troops that we have do an incredibly tough job every day, not only partnering with the Iraqis, but also continuing to flow the logistics to support our operations."

A soldier attached to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Schofield Barracks was killed on Wednesday near Mosul, the headquarters reported.

The soldier was wounded by enemy fire and transported to a military hospital where he later died, a release said.

Approximately 2,400 Hawai'i soldiers with the aviation brigade and 90 to 100 helicopters are serving a year of duty in northern Iraq. Altogether, more than 7,000 25th Infantry Division soldiers are in the country.

Schofield Barracks officials were trying to determine yesterday if the soldier was based in Hawai'i, or was attached to the aviation brigade from another unit.

The Pentagon did identify Capt. Matthew C. Mattingly, 30, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio, as being killed in Mosul.

The 82nd Airborne Division soldier's OH-58D Kiowa reconnaissance helicopter was fired on during combat operations, the military said.

"This is a huge loss," Col. Kelly Thomas, commander of the 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, said in a statement. "I've known Matt since he was a lieutenant in Sarajevo. He was a professional warrior, a combat veteran and a caring troop commander."

Mattingly had been deployed to Bosnia with the 25th Division in 2002, and to Iraq in 2003 with the 4th Infantry Division.

On Sept. 6, Pfc. Jeremy R. Shank, 18, became the first Schofield casualty on the deployment when he died in Balad of injuries received in Hawija, a Sunni stronghold. He was shot during a security foot patrol, the Pentagon said. The Jackson, Mo., man was posthumously promoted to corporal.

In 2004, 5,200 Schofield Barracks soldiers served in northern Iraq. Thirteen were killed. That same year, the 25th Division's colors were unfurled at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan when Maj. Gen. Eric T. Olson took over as the No. 2 U.S. commander in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.