Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wisconsin Guard worries about budget cuts

Federal budget cuts threaten to shunt the Wisconsin National Guard back into the bit part it played as a weekend warrior force with second-hand equipment before the post-9/11 wars thrust it into a full combat role, the state guard's top general said Wednesday.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sept. 4, 2007 -- deadly day for the 2-16

While I was working on a story for Sunday's paper, I interviewed Kyle Kumbier and Michael Mathieus, two Wisconsin men who served in the Army's 2-16, which lost 14 soldiers during a 15-month tour that stretched across 2007 and 2008. (Mike is on the left, Kyle on the right, in the photo, taken in Baghdad a few years ago.) The outfit is the subject of Pulitzer prize winning reporter David Finkel's 2009 book, "The Good Soldiers."

Kumbier tells a chilling story about Sept. 4, 2007, the day a bomb blast killed three members of the unit, mortally wounded another and left a fifth with serious injuries.

Here's what happened:
On Sept. 4, 2007, Kumbier was driving a line of five Humvees when an armor-piercing bomb exploded. As the dust cleared and gunshots rang out, Kumbier could see a Humvee aflame, its gunner sprawled on top of it and another soldier down on the ground. Kumbier tossed a fire extinguisher to his sergeant, who led a group on foot to the blast site.
“They started coming back and they are dragging a guy with them and as they are dragging him his leg, it looks like jelly, it’s just completely falling off his body,” Kumbier said.
It was Pvt. Randol Shelton, the gunner, and one of Kumbier’s best friends.
“We tried to throw on a couple of tourniquets, but his leg was so far gone up his leg that you couldn’t even get a tourniquet on there,” Kumbier said.
As Shelton moaned, Kumbier and another soldier tried to stop the bleeding with bandages soaked in a clotting agent. A medic jumped in and Kumbier sped toward the base through congested Baghdad streets. “I had my gunner start shooting to try to clear the road and it kind of worked,” Kumbier said. The Humvee fishtailed around the last corner into the base. An officer who didn’t know what was happening motioned for Kumbier to slow down and Kumbier flipped him off.
At the base aid station, medical personnel worked on Shelton for 15 minutes before pronouncing him dead, Kumbier said.
Shelton was one of four killed by the explosion. A fifth soldier survived with serious injuries.
In December 2007, Kumbier’s unit captured the insurgent believed to be responsible. The soldiers never found out what happened to him.
“We didn’t really get any justice from it, but it was nice to know he wasn’t going to be out there anymore doing that any more,” Kumbier said.

Sunday's story in the State Journal includes more from Kumbier and Mathieus as well as others who enlisted after Sept. 11, 2001.

-- Steve