Strike Force suffers 10th casualty since deployment
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Another 2nd Brigade soldier has been killed in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday, bringing to 10 the number of Strike Force casualties since the brigade deployed from South Korea in August.
Pfc. Aaron J. Rusin of the 44th Engineer Battalion died Monday at a military hospital in Iraq. Rusin was wounded the day before, when insurgents ambushed his vehicle, a Department of Defense press release read.
Rusin, 19, a native of Johnstown, Pa., was the second casualty from the 44th Engineers.
Of the Strike Force casualties, eight have been enlisted soldiers and two have been officers. Eight of the deaths were a result of hostile fire, officials have said.
In recent days, U.S. forces have stepped up offensives in the area west of Baghdad where the 2nd Brigade is assigned. According to U.S. military officials, the strikes are aimed at preventing a repeat of last year’s increase in insurgent attacks during Ramadan.
Ramadan is to begin at the end of this week.
Strike Force soldiers and U.S. Marines raided several mosques in Ramadi this week, arresting alleged leaders of Sunni insurgent groups and seizing bomb-making equipment and propaganda materials, the Pentagon said.
According to local news reports from his Pennsylvania hometown, Rusin joined the Army last year after graduating from high school and serving as a volunteer firefighter.
“He wanted to be like his dad. I was in Vietnam,” Tim Rusin, Aaron’s father, told reporters. Aaron Rusin’s three uncles and a grandfather also had served in the military, the family said.
Rusin’s father told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review he last spoke with his son about a week ago. “He said everything was fine over there but he wanted to come home,” Tim Rusin told the paper.
Aaron Rusin’s alma mater, Central Cambria High School, held a memorial and moment of silence for the soldier after news of his death reached his hometown. Rusin’s brother is a senior at the school, officials said.
Strike Force casualties
Spc. Omead H. Razani, 19, of Los Angeles, died Aug. 27 in Habbaniyah, Iraq, of noncombat-related injuries. Razani was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment.
Staff Sgt. Gary A. Vaillantof the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment, was killed Sept. 5 when his tank ran over an anti-tank mine near Khaldiyah. Vaillant, 41, was from Trujillo, Puerto Rico.
Pfc. Jason Lee Sparksof the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, was killed by enemy fire Sept. 8 in Fallujah. Sparks, 19, from Monroeville, Ohio, was killed by sniper fire when his squad was ambushed.
1st Lt. Tyler H. Brown, 26, of Atlanta, died Sept. 14 in Ramadi, Iraq, when his unit was attacked by enemy small-arms fire. Brown was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, Camp Hovey.
Spc. Robert Oliver Unruhof the 44th Engineer Battalion was killed by enemy small-arms fire Sept. 25 in Al Anbar province. Unruh, 25, was from Tucson, Ariz.
Capt. Eric L. Allton, 34, was killed Sept. 26 in Ramadi by a mortar round, officials said. Allton, a native of Houston, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.
Pfc. Joshua K. Titcombof the 2nd Battalion, 72nd Armor Regiment was killed Sept. 29 in Ramadi when an improvised explosive device was detonated near his military vehicle. Titcomb, 20, was from Somerset, Ky.
Pvt. Jeungjin Na Kim, 23, of Honolulu died Oct. 6 in Ramadi, Iraq, when his patrol was attacked by enemy small arms fire. Kim was assigned to the Army’s 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, Camp Hovey.
Pfc. James E. Prevete, 22, of Whitestone, N.Y., died Oct. 10 in Habbaniya, Iraq, when his military vehicle encountered whiteout conditions and the driver apparently lost control of the vehicle. Prevete was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, Camp Greaves.
Pfc. Aaron J. Rusin, 19, of Johnstown, Pa., died Oct. 11 in Baghdad of injuries sustained on Oct. 10 when his military vehicle came under fire. Rusin was assigned to the 44th Engineer Battalion, Camp Howze.
— Stars and Stripes