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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Two Schofield soldiers killed by blast in Iraq

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Two Schofield Barracks soldiers were killed and three injured when a roadside bomb exploded as they patrolled near the Iraqi city of Hawija on Saturday, the Pentagon and military officials said.

"We lost two this weekend," Schofield spokesman Kendrick Washington confirmed yesterday.

The dead soldiers' identities were being withheld pending notification of primary and secondary family members, Washington said. Policy also requires that 24 hours pass after family notification before the names are released to the public.

The soldiers belong to Task Force Lightning in northern Iraq. Another soldier with the task force was wounded by enemy fire near Mosul yesterday and died at a U.S. military hospital, according to a military release from Baghdad.

Schofield Barracks yesterday was trying to determine if that soldier was Hawai'i-based.

A soldier attached to the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade out of Schofield Barracks was killed on Sept. 13 near Mosul. The Pentagon identified him as Capt. Matthew C. Mattingly, 30, of Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

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

On Sept. 6, Pfc. Jeremy Shank, 18, became the first 25th Infantry Division casualty for this most recent deployment when he died in Balad of injuries, also received in Hawija. He was shot during a security foot patrol, the Pentagon said. The Jackson, Mo., man was posthumously promoted to corporal.

Hawija, about 30 miles southwest of Kirkuk in the tip of the Sunni Triangle, has had a reputation as a particularly dangerous place since the 2004 deployment of 5,200 Schofield soldiers to Iraq.

Then, as now, it was the 27th Infantry Regiment "Wolfhounds" who had responsibility for 85,000-population Hawija and neighboring farming villages. In 2004 it was the 1st Battalion, which lost three soldiers in the Sunni enclave.

There is a stark difference between multi-ethnic Kirkuk and its population that includes Kurds supportive of the United States, and the Sunni stronghold of Hawija, where soldiers received cold stares as patrols drove the streets.

Sunni Arabs had dominated Saddam Hussein's Baath Party but were removed from power following the 2003 invasion and have no oil wealth as do the Kurds in the north and Shiites in the south.

On this latest deployment, the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry patrols the Hawija area.

The Pentagon reported yesterday that 2,697 Americans have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war.

More than 7,000 25th Infantry Division soldiers from Hawai'i are serving in northern Iraq.

On Sept. 12, a formal "transfer of authority" was held at Contingency Operating Base Speicher near Tikrit to transfer U.S. command of northern Iraq and Multinational Division-North to Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon from Schofield Barracks.

Mixon is in charge of about 21,000 U.S. troops from Hawai'i and elsewhere as part of Task Force Lightning, a reference to the 25th Division's "Tropic Lightning" nickname here.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com.