YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A 2nd Brigade Combat Team soldier has been killed in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday, making him at least the 15th Strike Force casualty since the unit’s one-year tour began in August.

Pfc. Stephen P. Downing II, 30, was killed Oct. 28 by enemy small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in the restive city of Ramadi, a Department of Defense news release said.

Downing, of Burkesville, Ky., was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, which deployed from Camp Hovey, South Korea, along with the 2nd BCT.

No further information was available Sunday from Downing’s hometown.

According to Pentagon figures, 13 of the 15 Strike Force deaths have been combat-related. The 2-17 Field Artillery has lost five soldiers, all from combat wounds.

Like many other U.S. units in Iraq, 2-17 is undertaking missions it normally would not be assigned. Before leaving South Korea, the unit trained to rotate three companies through roles as infantrymen, force protection soldiers and in their traditional role as field artillery.

Ramadi is the provincial capital of Al Abnar province, where the 2nd BCT is conducting operations under the command of a Marine Corps unit. The province, stretching to the west of Baghdad, also contains Fallujah, often called a center of the insurgency. U.S. commanders are prepping assaults in the cities, which have been “no go” zones for American forces.

Two days after Downing’s death, eight Marines were killed by a car bomb near Fallujah, which sits about halfway between Ramadi and Baghdad. That attack, coupled with another Marine’s death elsewhere, made Saturday the single deadliest day for U.S. troops in Iraq since May, officials said.

In an interview published by the New York Times on Sunday, 2nd Brigade Combat Team commander Col. Gary S. Patton said the keys to defeating insurgents were developing “capable” Iraqi security forces, helping to create strong local governments and improving municipal services.

“But it’s difficult to do any of that stuff when you’re fighting five-meter targets, terrorists at every street corner,” the Times quoted Patton as saying in the Camp Ramadi interview. “And so our fight right now is to gain some freedom of action.”

The Times also quoted Maj. Steven Alexander, the 2nd BCT operations officer, as saying Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, faced a tough task in dealing harshly with the insurgency while not alienating Iraqi citizens.

“So I don’t envy his decision,” the Times quoted Alexander as saying.

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