165th Commander on Iraq Attack - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

11/03/03

165th Commander on Iraq Attack

US soldiers injured in yesterday's deadly helicopter attack in Iraq are now in Germany. They're recovering while crews are cleaning up the wreckage from the deadliest day for US soldiers since the war ended. Today, soldiers sealed off the area where the Chinook was shot down west of Baghdad. A giant crane was used to lift pieces of the wreckage onto a truck.

Sixteen soldiers were killed and 20 more wounded when a surface-to-air missile hit the helicopter. The 36 soldiers on board were on their way back to the states for leave. The wounded soldiers arrived at a hospital near Ramstein Air Base in Germany early this morning. Doctors say they are all expected to survive.

The death of those troops has directly impacted Guardsmen with the 165th Airlift Wing. Members who are currently serving in Iraq had the heartbreaking task of transporting the bodies of those soldiers who were killed in yesterday's attack. We spoke with Col. Steve Westgate today. He's commander of the 165th and he says yesterday's attack shows how fearless militants are getting against our troops.

"Hopefully, we'll come up with ideas to remove that kind of risk," he said. "There is plenty we're doing already, but as time goes by they've gotten a bit bolder."

US troops face a very real threat in Iraq, both on the ground and in the air. Saddam loyalists have tried to hit US military planes before, but this time, they hit their mark. Col. Westgate says the military's technology helps the troops to avoid most attacks. "We have certain tactics we use in the airplane to avoid those threats and let us know about those threats," he said.

For the 165th Airlift Wing, transporting cargo and troops on their C-130s is part of their job, but Col. Westgate says attacks like Sunday's bring the reality of war closer. "It kind of makes the crew more somber. It's a special event whenever we carry human remains."

The senate is preparing to give final congressional approval to the $87 billion measure for postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. The bill includes about $18.5 billion to help Iraq rebuild.

Reported by: Hena Daniels, hdaniels@wtoc.com

Powered by Frankly