- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

FORT CARSON (AP) — Fort Carson, already hit hard by the conflict in Iraq, suffered its single heaviest combat loss since the Vietnam War with the deaths of four soldiers aboard a helicopter shot down near the Euphrates River.

Many of the casualties of Sunday’s attack were headed out of Iraq for R&R; (rest and recuperation) or emergency leave. One, Fort Carson-based Sgt. Ernest Bucklew, 33, had been on his way home to attend his mother’s funeral in Pennsylvania.

“Even on your worst day, he knew how to make you laugh,” his wife, Barbara Bucklew, said through tears yesterday. “That had to be his best quality.”

Sixteen American troops died and 20 were wounded, including 13 from Fort Carson, in the deadliest single strike against U.S. forces since the invasion of Iraq in March. The military confirmed some of the casualties were from Fort Carson, Fort Sill, Okla., Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas.

“Iraq continues to be a very dangerous place to serve,” Col. Michael Resty Jr., Fort Carson garrison commander, said yesterday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We provide whatever assistance we can with regard to force protection,” including making sure troops are properly trained and equipped, he said. “We need the American people’s support to ensure that we can provide those kinds of things to soldiers that get deployed.”

Fort Carson has sent 12,000 troops to Iraq — its largest deployment since World War II — including units from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team and battalions of the 10th Special Forces Group. At least 21 soldiers from the post already had died there.

Lt. Col. Tony Aguto, executive officer with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, told the Colorado Springs Gazette, “We are all just kind of reeling for the moment.”

Officials at Fort Carson confirmed the troops were on their way home for R&R.;

First Lt. Brian Slavenas, a 30-year-old Illinois National Guardsman from Genoa, Ill., was flying the helicopter when it went down, his father said yesterday. He was killed in the crash.

Flags flew at half-staff Monday at the Peoria headquarters of Lt. Slavenas’ F Company 106th Aviation Battalion.

“Your hearts go out to the families. You just pray that they’ll find some comfort,” said Lt. Col. Greg Crocher, the base’s commander. He said more than 200 members of the unit have been in Iraq since April. Members are split between the Peoria base and a detachment in Davenport, Iowa, where officials have said four of the injured were based.

Sgt. Bucklew, the son of a Pennsylvania coal miner, had recently e-mailed his family, saying he didn’t plan to take a 10-day leave because it would be too hard on his two sons back in Colorado, said his uncle, Jack Smith. But after his mother died Friday, he arranged through the Red Cross to return.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide