Friday, October 7, 2011

Death of Fort Leonard Wood soldiers in Afghanistan hits base hard

Death of Fort Leonard Wood soldiers in Afghanistan hits base hard
October 7, 2011

From left: Pvt. David Drake, 1st Lt. Ivan Lechowich and Spc. Steven Gutowski

The deaths last week of three Fort Leonard Wood soldiers equaled the largest loss of life from a single incident for those deployed from Missouri's biggest military installation since the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq began.

First Lt. Ivan Lechowich, Spc. Steven Gutowski and Pvt. David Drake, all members of the 5th Engineer Battalion, were killed Sept. 28 in Afghanistan's Ghazni province when their mine-resistant vehicle was struck by a hidden explosive. It was the third time three battalion soldiers had died from a single roadside bomb.

Located about 130 miles southwest of St. Louis, Fort Leonard Wood might best be known for its role as a training installation. Each year, about 90,000 military members pass through the post, including about 30,000 Army recruits who spend nine weeks learning the fundamentals of being a soldier. But recent years also have seen an increase in the number of combat-ready troops based at the 63,000-acre post. In 2008, the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade was established. Its 4,000 soldiers tripled the number of forces based at the fort that could deploy to a war zone.

That includes engineers who are charged with ridding roads of the enemy's most effective weapon — the improvised explosive device, or IED.
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