278th Reported In Position In Tikrit's Province Of Iraq
By Bill Jones
Lt. Col. Frank McCauley, commander of the 278th Regimental Combat Team's Second Squadron, said via electronic mail on Wednesday that the remainder of his unit will arrive at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Bernstein in northern Iraq "in the next couple of days."
The 278th RCT's Second Squadron, which was based in Kingsport before the Tennessee Army National Guard's 278th Armored Cavalry Regiment was called to active duty earlier this year, includes a number of citizen-soldiers from Greeneville and Greene County.
Augmented by National Guard units from several other states during training at Camp Shelby, Miss., earlier this year, the 278th is now called a regimental combat team.
The unit began moving into Iraq from a base in Kuwait last weekend, driving about 450 miles to its area of operations in northeastern Iraq.
Lt. Col. McCauley reported on Wednesday about the Second Squadron's current activities in response to an electronic mail inquiry from a Greeneville Sun reporter.
He said Second Squadron soldiers had been providing security escorting for the 278th's heavier tracked vehicles, that are being hauled into Iraq from Kuwait on large trucks because of the distance involved.
"The convoy from Kuwait took two full days through some dangerous territory," Lt. Col McCauley wrote. "No incidents occurred, and we were provided air escort by Apache helicopters through the most dangerous areas."
He remarked that Second Squadron troops "are in good spirits and are currently becoming integrated with the outgoing unit," which, he said, is the 120th Infantry Battalion, 30th Armored Brigade, of the North Carolina Army National Guard.
"A Transfer of Authority ceremony will be held at the completion of all the tasks in the transition with the 120th," Lt. Col. McCauley wrote.
"This should occur in the next two to three weeks. That ceremony will signify that 2/278 (has) become totally responsible for our area of operations, which has a total population of about 150,000 Iraqi citizens."
Tuz, the Iraqi city near where Forward Operating Base Bernstein is located, is in the As Sulaymaniyah province of Iraq, Lt. Col. McCauley wrote. "The provincial capital is in Tikrit," the birthplace of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Lt. Col. McCauley also reported that the remainder of the 278th RCT is in Iraq's Diyala province.
FOB Bernstein, the base where the Second Squadron of the 278th RCT is located, is named in honor of the late U.S. Army 1st Lt. David R. Bernstein, 24, of Phoenixville, Pa.
The GlobalSecurity.Org Web site describes the area where FOB Bernstein is located as "a desolate, flat range of ankle-high shrubbery about 10 miles from the city of Tuz."
Lt. Bernstein was fatally wounded, along with Pfc. John Hart, on Oct. 18, 2003, according to the GlobalSecurity.Org Website.
Bernstein and Hart, both members of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 508th Infantry (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, were killed when their convoy came under attack from rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and machine gun fire, the Website said.
The two soldiers, according to the Website, were in the last vehicle of a quick-reaction force convoy and were cut off from the rest of their convoy when guerrilla fighters fired an RPG at their vehicle, causing the driver, Spc. Joshua Sams, to lose control.
After the vehicle crashed into a dirt berm (embankment), it came to a stop on top of Sams' arm, the Website stated.
Lt. Bernstein, although mortally wounded by a gunshot wound to the leg, then crawled over to Sams' side under direct fire, and pushed on the gas pedal with his hand, moving the vehicle forward off Sams' arm. Bernstein collapsed shortly afterward and died.
PFC Hart, who was seated in the back of the HUMVEE when the attack took place, had been killed in the initial RPG explosion, according to the Global Security Website.