Thursday, October 8, 2009

Saddened by loss of Sgt. Adams, but Wisconsin's 951st back on Afghan road

Soldiers of Wisconsin's 951st are back at work clearing roads of IEDs following the death Friday of Sgt. Ryan Adams (Wisconsin National Guard photo at right shows Adams in Afghanistan in May 2009). A rocket-propelled grenade killed Adams and injured seven of his fellow soldiers who were on a route-clearing patrol in Logar Province, Afghanistan.

This update comes via Maj. Jackie Guthrie, the state guard PAO in Madison.

"The 951st is a close-knit group of Soldiers," said Capt. Brian Barth, company commander. "They understand that this can happen. But we continue with the mission."

Adams was killed by insurgents Oct. 2 while his route clearing platoon was on patrol in Logar Province, Afghanistan. He was commanding a vehicle providing security for his platoon when the attack occurred. Seven other Soldiers were injured in the same attack and are receiving medical care as needed.

Three Soldiers from the 951st knew Adams since childhood, and served as pallbearers during the "ramp ceremony," when his casket was loaded onto a plane to be brought to the United States. "He's never going to be forgotten in the unit," Fulton said. "As long as we're alive, Sgt. Adams will be alive with us. We're continuing on with the mission, doing the best we can."

That entails helping ensure that other Soldiers stay alive to complete their missions. The unit, based in Rhinelander and Tomahawk, puts in long days clearing roadside bombs along routes in an approximately 6,000-square mile area of responsibility.

"We are in high demand due to the [improvised explosive device] threat," Barth said.

Besides hunting IEDs, the 951st searches key terrain features as well as bypass roads for major supply routes, alternative supply routes and combat trails, and gathers biometric data - name, date and location of birth, home of record, iris scans and fingerprints - from local residents. Missions can range from six to 56 hours in length. Since February, the unit has amassed more than 240 combat missions.

"We've got Soldiers that perform with the best of them," he said, noting that his unit works alongside active component Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and the 82nd Airborne Division.

"How do you label success?" he continued. "It's tough losing a Soldier. Getting back on the road is success."

Fulton described Adams as a dedicated Soldier with a unique sense of humor who looked out for others.

"He didn't have a mean bone in his body," Fulton said.

"He was the model for the [non-commissioned officer]," Barth added. "He challenged people, regardless of rank, to perform their best. Sgt. Adams was a great individual."

The 951st mobilized Nov. 30, 2008 and are nearing the end of their deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.