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MOSUL, Iraq — Hundreds of soldiers filed into a memorial service Friday to mourn the loss of four of their comrades, including a battalion commander, who were killed by a car bomb Monday.

The attack, which also killed an Iraqi interpreter, took place in Mosul, a still-violent city that remains what U.S. officials have called the last urban stronghold of insurgents in Iraq. It was the most soldiers killed in Iraq by a single enemy attack since last May.

Those killed in the attack were: Lt. Col. Garnet R. "Gary" Derby, 44, of Missoula, Mont., the 3rd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment commander; Sgt. Joshua A. Ward, 30, of Scottsville, Ky.; Pfc. Albert R. Jex, 23, of Phoenix, Ariz.; Pfc. Jonathan R. Roberge, 22, of Leominster, Mass.; and interpreter Jevan Ali Othman, 27.

The soldiers killed, part of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, were part of Derby’s personal security detail, officials said.

While violence has receded in many other parts of Iraq, the fighting in Mosul continues, fed partly by rivalries between Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Insurgents have also moved into northern provinces as they have been pushed out of Baghdad and other areas.

Col. Gary J. Volesky, commander of the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, said it will be a challenge to overcome the loss of a commander in the middle of combat operations.

"You’ve got a guy who really gave direction to that unit," Volesky said.

Derby started his military career in 1985 as a cavalry scout with the Montana National Guard and later was commissioned as a second lieutenant after graduating from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree in physical education.

Friends described Derby as a tough-talking leader who cared deeply about his men. Volesky said he affectionately called Derby "Knuckledragger."

"He was our blunt instrument and we loved him," he said.

Ward joined the National Guard in 1998 before becoming an active-duty soldier in 2000. He was the personal security detail’s team leader and friends said Ward had a great sense of humor.

"Since he has gone, the room has gotten quiet, and I’m still expecting him to come back, open the curtain and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing?’ " Sgt. Jonathan Wienk said, choking back tears.

Jex joined the Army in 2007 and served as the gunner for Derby’s personal security detail. He grew up in New York before moving to Phoenix after high school. Pfc. Bradley Norris remembered Jex as a dedicated soldier and a good friend.

In comments to the Buffalo News, Jex’s father, Nelson, said his son "loved hunting and fishing, and his GTO. He used to drag race that thing near Fort Hood (home of the 1st Cavalry)."

Roberge joined the Army last January. Spc. Mary Torczon said he was a fun-loving prankster who once taped her eyes shut when she fell asleep in the back of a Humvee, and once put laxatives in her Gatorade. But she could never stay mad at the man she thought of as her little brother.

"He was the one who had the million-dollar smile," Torczon said.

Othman wanted to emigrate to America and had already received his visa, but continued working as an interpreter because he didn’t want to leave until Derby found a replacement for him, said his friend and fellow interpreter Sirwan (like many interpreters, he goes by one name out of fear for his safety).

"No matter how many friends he lost along the way, he never lost faith in what he was doing for his country," Sirwan said.


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