Fort Lewis officials had little information today on the attack that killed at least 24 people at a Mosul, Iraq, post of Task Force Olympia, many of whose...
FORT LEWIS —
Fort Lewis officials had little information today on the attack that killed at least 24 people at a Mosul, Iraq, post of Task Force Olympia, many of whose members are Fort Lewis soldiers.
Military officials said 24 people were killed and at least 60 wounded when a huge explosion ripped through a mess tent, making it the deadliest attack on a U.S. base in Iraq.
Lt. Col. Bill Costello, a Fort Lewis spokesman, said he had few details on the attack, including how many casualties might be from Fort Lewis. He offered condolences to relatives and friends of the dead and injured.
“Anytime you lose a soldier, it’s stressful,” Costello said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas week or the middle of August.”
The dead included U.S. military personnel, U.S. contractors, foreign national contractors and Iraqi army, said Brig. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of Task Force Olympia in Mosul.
Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a spokesman for Task Force Olympia, told CNN that the toll was 24 dead and more than 60 were wounded.
Lt. Col. Joseph Piek, at Fort Lewis, was in Iraq from November 2003 to August 2004 serving as public affairs officer for Task Force Olympia. He said Tuesday that he heard news of the attack as he was getting ready for work.
“I was shocked and saddened. But at the same time, I started seeing pictures of how our soldiers handled this,” he said. “I’m very proud of the way the U.S. and Iraqi soldiers reacted. They got the injured soldiers to medical facilities very rapidly,”
Piek said chaplains and others at Fort Lewis were preparing to notify and console families as necessary.
“The soldiers, the units and the families here are prepared to support each other in any way they can,” he said.
The task force is part of I Corps, based at Fort Lewis, and includes members of the active Army, reserve and National Guard, along with U.S. Marines and Iraqi security forces. The main unit is the 4,000-member, Fort Lewis-based 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade, named for the armored vehicle the unit uses.
The 1st Brigade had been in Mosul since October, when it relieved another Fort Lewis-based Stryker unit.
A radical Muslim group, the Ansar al-Sunnah Army, claimed responsibility for the noontime attack on the mess tent at Forward Operating Base Merez at the al-Ghizlani military camp, about three miles south of the city, which is 220 miles north of Baghdad.
Jeremy Redmon, a reporter for the Richmond, Va., Times-Dispatch embedded with the troops in Mosul, said the dead included two from the Richmond-based 276th Engineer Battalion, which had just sat down to eat. He reported 64 were wounded, and civilians may have been among them, he said.
The base is used by both U.S. troops and the interim Iraqi government’s security forces.
Since the war began, 31 soldiers from Fort Lewis have been killed in Iraq. There are currently 6,700 Fort Lewis soldiers in Iraq, though Costello said he did not know how many were based in Mosul.