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Archives: June 2009


Five years later, Iraq war claims a priest’s life

A Catholic priest who was critically injured while deployed with his Fort Lewis unit died Saturday, more than five years after his Humvee struck a roadside bomb in Iraq.

The Rev. Tim Vakoc becomes the first chaplain to die of wounds sustained during the war in Iraq. The former major from Minnesota – known to most as Father Tim – suffered brain damage and lost an eye from the May 30, 2004, attack. He had most recently lived at a nursing home in New Hope, Minn.

“He was a great man of God,” said Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek, who served with Vakoc on the fateful deployment to northern Iraq. “He was universally known and universally loved by the soldiers.”

According to an online journal that tracked Vakoc’s recovery, the 49-year-old died Saturday night while surrounded by friends and family. No further detail on the cause of the priest’s death was given, and family members couldn’t be reached Monday.

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Father’s Day, South Asia style

Brian McGovern, a Fort Lewis public affairs NCO deployed to Afghanistan, offers this piece about Father’s Day in South Asia.

When I heard someone mention that it was Father’s Day. Huh… I had completely forgotten. My thoughts went to my dad, who is bravely suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease. And then I thought about my kids. But I couldn’t call or email anyone, since we were under a commo blackout.

His post — like most of his blog — is worth your time.


What 5th Stryker Brigade is working toward

For this following the deployment of 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, this could be interesting: Small Wars Journal copies Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s initial guidance to the troops upon taking the top military job in Afghanistan.

It begins:

The situation in Afghanistan is serious. The outcome is important–and not yet decided. Our actions this year will be critical. We must, and will, succeed.

Success will be defined by the Afghan people’s freedom to choose their future–freedom from coercion, extremists, malign foreign influence, or abusive government actions.

The outcome will be determined by our ability to understand

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The Pakistani media’s take on 5/2’s deployment

To lead the daily roundup of newslinks about local troops, I submit a source that hasn’t been seen in these parts too often. The Pakistan Observer — which bills itself as the “eyes and ears of Pakistan” and “widely read and trusted daily” reports about the American troop buildup in Afghanistan.

Here’s part of what it has to say about 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which is leaving for South Asia:

The US Stryker Brigade presently under deployment in Kandahar will operate alongside the Canadian Task Force that is struggling to stem the Taliban resilience to evict the occupation forces in the province for the past four years, losing 119 dead and several hundred wounded in the process. A key objective of this troop reinforcement is to impose a greater authority over the southern provinces before the Afghan presidential election on August 20. Taliban leaders have boycotted the ballot, declaring any vote under foreign occupation to be illegitimate.

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Strykers, Navy, Triple Nickel and the 62nd SFS

Local troops in the news today:

3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division:

4th Brigade Combat Team welcomes new commander during ceremony at Fort Polk (Alexandria Town Talk)

14th Battalion, 555th Engineer Brigade:

1st Cavalry’s 4th Brigade Combat team honors FALLEN at memorial (Killeen Daily Herald)


Band to salute Navy vet (The Olympian)

62nd Security Forces Squadron

On the Way to the Market (DVIDS)


Fort Lewis bids farewell to 5th Stryker Brigade

Spc. Ryan Young found his wife amid the crowds and pulled her in for a long hug. Around the couple, people cried and smiled. Others took photos or dashed to their cars, trying to savor every last minute before heading to war.

Young, 28, admits he has mixed emotions about leaving. He will miss his wife, but he said a soldier’s duty is to fight when the nation calls.

“I had fun on my first deployment to Iraq,” the infantryman said. “But this one’s gonna be tough at times.”

Young is one of about 3,900 soldiers from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division who begin leaving this month for a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, a cornerstone of a larger push by the U.S. military to bolster a war effort that has struggled to keep the peace. The brigade marked their tour, the first such assignment for a Stryker brigade and the largest troop commitment from Fort Lewis to the South Asian country, during a ceremony at Watkins Field on Friday.

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Tasers, missile launchers, sniper rifles and more

Hakan Persson held an anti-tank missile launcher and smiled like a new father.

“You can fire this one inside a building with no problem,” said the product manager for Saab Bofors Dynamics, a Swedish weapons manufacturer. “It’s called at AT4 CS because CS stands for ‘confined space.’”

Several soldiers gazed at the display at tubes and rockets and nodded. At a nearby booth in Fort Lewis’ American Lake Community Center, police officers admired the latest sniper rifles Remington had to offer. And a few soldiers from 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division agreed to be on the receiving end of a Taser.

It was all part of the SpecOps West Warfighter Expo, a three-day event featuring more than 70 vendors selling a range of equipment targeted at military and law enforcement. On display were rifles, knives, heavy weapons, communication gear, customizable notepads and sunglasses. This is the event’s third year in Pierce County; the previous two shows were at the Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center. As many as 2,000 people are expected to attend this week.

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Army deserter arrested at Sea-Tac

Got this release from the Border Patrol folks:

CBP Apprehends U.S. Army Deserter At Sea-Tac Airport

SEATTLE – U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport apprehended Earl Wayne Weeks on an outstanding NCIC Army desertion warrant out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina last Thursday, June 11.

Weeks had entered Canada in October, 2008 at Carway, Alberta as a visitor. He had made the decision to leave the U.S. military without proper discharge. On May 31, Weeks turned himself in to Edmonton, Alberta Police, requesting to be returned to the United States. Subsequently, he was turned over to Canada Border Services Agency. CBSA officers in Edmonton, Alberta contacted CBP officers at the U.S. Pre-clearance office at the Edmonton Airport, who confirmed the outstanding warrant on Weeks. CBSA officers from Canada escorted Weeks to Sea-Tac Airport on June 11 under a prearranged agreement, and turned Weeks over to CBP officers and the Port of Seattle Police.

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