Monday, June 19, 2006

Officials Identify Missing Soldiers as Search Continues

BAGHDAD, June 19, 2006
Military officials here today identified two U.S. soldiers missing since a June 16 attack on a checkpoint south of the Iraqi capital, as well as the soldier killed in the attack.

Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was killed, and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston and Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore., are listed as "duty status and whereabouts unknown," coalition spokesman Army Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell said. All three soldiers were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.

Caldwell expressed sadness over Babineau's death and sympathy over the uncertainty the families of Menchaca and Tucker are experiencing. "Our deepest sympathy goes out to their families," the general said.

More than 8,000 U.S. military personnel and Iraqi soldiers and police are working together to find the missing soldiers, Caldwell said.

U.S. Navy and Air Force fighter-attack jets; E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System, or JSTARS, aircraft; and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles are involved in the search effort, Caldwell said. Three pararescue dive teams and "national assets of varying types" also are supporting our efforts, he added.

"We have surged intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms and employed planes, boats, helicopters and UAVs to ensure the most thorough search possible on the ground, in the air and in the water," the general said. Searchers have cleared about a dozen villages in the area, and coalition forces continue to engage local citizens for help and information, he added.

So far, seven U.S. servicemembers have been wounded in action during the search, Caldwell said. Three enemy fighters have been killed, and 34 detainees have been taken into custody. Citizens have provided 63 tips, leading to 12 cordon-and-search operations, eight air assault operations and 280 flight hours flown.

"We are using all available assets, coalition and Iraqi, to find our soldiers, and will not stop looking until we find them," Caldwell told reporters.

"We will never stop looking for our servicemembers until their status is definitively determined," he emphasized. "We continue to pray for their safe return and also ask for you to keep the families and friends of our missing soldiers in your hearts and minds, maintaining respect for their privacy during this extremely difficult time."
(Above Courtesy of DoD - American Forces Press Service and taken from a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

No comments: