Friday, July 11, 2008

RIP: Byron R. Fouty & Alex R. Jimenez


On May 12, 2007, the early morning calm at a small U.S. Army outpost in the village of Quarghouli hard by the Euphrates River southwest of Baghdad was shattered by rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

A dozen or so insurgents, led by Al Qaeda regulars, overwhelmed the seven soldiers from the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division, breaching the concertina wire ringing their two Humvees and setting the vehicles afire.

The Americans fought back, but didn’t stand a chance. Their crude outpost was a consequence of a risky new counterinsurgency tactic promoted by General David Petraeus in response to pleas from the White House to find something -- anything -- that worked in the fourth year of a war that was supposed to be over in weeks but had morphed into the most disastrous foreign policy adventure in American history.

The counterinsurgency tactic, a component of the new Surge strategy, emphasized pushing soldiers out of safe bases into local communities. Unfortunately, the outpost was too far from reinforcements that wouldn't hesitate to get involved and a nearby Iraqi Army unit that apparently did.

The first relieving force to reach the scene of the attack was delayed because of concern over roadside bombs, but it probably wouldn't have mattered because the four soldiers and an Iraqi Army interpreter that they found had been killed in the firefight. That was bad enough, but there was evidence that the three other soldiers had been abducted.

One of those soldiers was later found dead. But two others remained missing and were presumed dead -- Alex R. Jimenez, a 25-year-old specialist from Lawrence, Massachusetts who had earned a Purple Heart and mastered conversational Arabic on his first tour in Iraq, and Byron R. Fouty, a 19-year-old private from Waterford, Michigan who had been in-country for only a few weeks. Their bodies have finally been found.

* * * * *

I have written hundred of stories off of the Iraq war, but this one really hurts.

Kiko's House followed the search for Fouty and Jimenez with daily posts over the first few weeks and after a while I felt like I knew these young men and the loved ones who prayed that they would be found alive but secretly knew that almost certainly was not to be.

This is their story.

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