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Soldiers from the unit searching for three of its members captured in Iraq are describing the trio as rugged, combat-tough troops with the skills to survive any presumed captivity.

The three — Spc. Alex Jimenez, Pfc. Joseph Anzack and Pvt. Byron Fouty — are all assigned to 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division.

“Jimenez and Anzack were both physically and mentally strong, especially Anzack — he was hardheaded and strong-willed,” Army Capt. Don Jamoles, the trio’s former company commander who is now working in the unit’s headquarters company, said in a news release. “Jimenez … he had a lot of street smarts.”

“I never thought in a million years that something like this would happen to us,” Jamoles was quoted as saying. “I lay in bed each night imagining where these men can be, hoping we find something that will bring us closer to them and wishing when I woke up they would be found.”

More than 4,000 American and Iraqi troops are involved in the search, focusing on an area south of Baghdad near Yusuifiyah. In the attack in which they were captured, four other soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter were killed.

U.S. authorities were examining a body found in the Euphrates River that Iraqi police believe is a U.S. soldier seized in an ambush nearly two weeks ago, officials said Wednesday. U.S. authorities have not determined if the body found in the the river was one of three missing American soldiers.

In the news release, the unit described the area in which the three were captured as “one of the most contested areas of the brigade’s area.”

The area was described as rural farmland near the Euphrates River and an old weapons factory, a road routinely laden with bombs, and “populated by former regime intelligence and Republican Guard officers.”

In nine days of searching, military officials said, at least 37 large-scale missions have been launched — including 27 air-assault missions bearing soldiers by helicopter — with 19 U.S. Army and 22 Iraqi army companies involved in the search.

Some 70 people with “suspected ties to the attack” have been arrested, officials said Wednesday.

“I haven’t heard of indicators that make me believe the soldiers are dead,” the battalion’s command sergeant major, Alexander Jimenez, was quoted as saying.

“It gets frustrating that we cannot find them, but we are not losing hope. We will continue searching for our soldiers and doing whatever we can to find them — we will not leave them.”

Those sentiments echoed what Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, said in an interview last week.

News relayed through another press release gives the unit some hope of recovering their fellow soldiers alive.

According to the U.S. military, U.S. and Iraqi troops rescued an Iraqi soldier held in a Baghdad district since May 17. The soldier, named as Mosher Ahmmaed Abdualrahman, had allegedly been held by Madhi Army members in the Rashid district.

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