Three 2nd ID soldiers killed in Ramadi offensive
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Three more 2nd Infantry Division soldiers have been killed in Iraq amid a new offensive against insurgents in Ramadi, the Pentagon confirmed Monday.
The soldiers were killed Oct. 14 when an improvised explosive device was detonated near their convoy in Ramadi, the Department of Defense said. Their deaths bring to at least 14 the number of 2nd ID casualties since the 2nd Brigade Combat Team reached Iraq 10 weeks ago.
The Army identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Omer T. Hawkins II and Pfc. Mark A. Barbret, both of the 44th Engineer Battalion; and Spc. Bradley S. Beard of the 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment.
No other information on the incident was available from the Pentagon. But according to news reports, U.S. forces — including the 2nd Brigade and the Marine units that are in charge of the area of operations — have fought pitched battles since last week with insurgents in and around Ramadi, the capital city of the restive Al Anbar province.
Marine Corps officials have said the raids are aimed at insurgents working in concert with fighters from nearby Fallujah, media reports said.
Officials from the 1st Marine Division, which has operational control of the area in which the 2nd Brigade is serving, believe insurgent fighters have been moving freely between Ramadi and Fallujah to coordinate attacks on U.S. forces. In addition to the Ramadi offensive, U.S. aircraft have spent the past week conducting airstrikes on suspected targets in Fallujah.
According to the Associated Press, U.S. forces moved into Ramadi beginning Oct. 13, occupying strategic posts, sealing roads and searching buildings.
The three 2nd Infantry Division soldiers were killed the next day, the Pentagon said.
According to the Detroit News, Barbret was a 22-year-old father of a 3-year-old boy. Barbret was riding in a Humvee when his convoy was struck by the IED, family and friends in his hometown of Shelby Township told the paper.
“I told him Daddy is in heaven with Jesus and the angels,” Nicole Hale, the mother of Barbret’s son, told the paper. “He knows who his daddy is but he doesn’t understand what happened yet. We’re going to make sure there are plenty of tapes and photographs around for him, so that there are lots of memories.”
Hawkins, 31, was from Cherry Fork, Ohio, and also assigned to the 44th Engineers.
Beard, 22, of Chapel Hill, N.C., was with 2nd Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment. Information from their hometowns was not available Monday.
Both the 44th Engineers and 2-17 Field Artillery have now suffered four casualties in Iraq, all of them listed as combat deaths.
Twelve of the 14 2nd Infantry Division soldiers killed so far in Iraq have died from combat wounds, according to the Pentagon.
Second Infantry Division officials have said they will hold a group memorial in South Korea for all of the fallen soldiers sometime in the coming weeks.