Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cedar Rapids, Iowa Soldier killed in Afghanistan

This morning in Afghanistan, while most back in the US were sleeping, a solemn ceremony was held at the Enduring Faith Chapel on Bagram Air Field. Approximately 250 Solidiers gathered to honor Sgt. 1st Class Terry Pasker, 39, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The scene was somber as many who knew him and worked with him gathered to remember a NCO Leader who was taken from them. Sgt. 1st Class Pasker and his wife had been married about five years, and they intended to start a family after he retired from the military next year.

I was able to witness his Battle Buddies as they gathered, honored his memory and mourned a Patriot, Freind, Mentor, and Leader. Sgt. 1st Class Pasker had touched their lives, improved the lives of many here and at home in Iowa.

He is one of many who we have lost in an effort to help others by providing a measure of security and freedom.

I told one of the Soldiers I was sorry for his loss and that he was a good man. The Soldier sadly replied, " Yes, he was." Truer words have likely never been spoken here.

Afghan attack kills Cedar Rapids soldier
2:40 PM, Jul. 11, 2011
Written by Tony Leys - Ashvilee Citizen Times

An Iowa National Guard soldier who planned to retire from the military and start a family soon was shot to death Saturday by a government security officer in eastern Afghanistan.

The attacker also killed an American civilian contractor before exchanging gunfire with a second Iowa Guard soldier, who shot the gunman to death, officials said.

The dead Iowa soldier was identified as Sgt. 1st Class Terry Pasker, 39, of Cedar Rapids. The other Guardsman, Master Sgt. Todd Eipperle of Marshalltown, was wounded in the gunfight.

Pasker was the fourth Iowa Guardsman killed in Afghanistan since about 2,800 members of the Guard deployed there last fall. The second American killed in Saturday's attack was a civilian law-enforcement official, Col. Gregory Hapgood, a Guard spokesman, said Sunday evening. The colonel said he didn't know the man's identity or home state.

The shooter reportedly was a member of the Afghan National Directorate of Security, an intelligence service that works with U.S. forces. Authorities were unsure why he attacked the Americans.

The incident happened in Panjshir province, one of the most peaceful areas of Afghanistan. Panjshir is a mountain valley north of Kabul whose people have strenuously resisted the Taliban.

The province is considered so safe that U.S. soldiers often walk around without wearing helmets or body armor, and they don't routinely ride in the large, heavily-armored military trucks American soldiers use in most other parts of the country.

Hapgood said he didn't know if the Iowa soldiers were wearing protective equipment. He said that the soldiers were riding in two armored pickup trucks and that they were on their way to check on a development project.

The colonel said Eipperle drove the lead truck through an impromptu checkpoint, and then saw the Afghan officer wave down the second truck.

The officer fired through the driver's side window, killing Pasker and the American civilian, Hapgood said. Eipperle jumped out of his truck and exchanged fire with the gunman, killing him. Hapgood said he didn't know the extent of Eipperle's injuries.

Eipperle, who is a Boy Scouts of America administrator in civilian life, was being treated at a hospital in Afghanistan on Sunday.

The Iowa Guard brigade's deployment is scheduled to be finished by the end of July, and some Iowa troops have already returned to the United States.

"Certainly there is the potential to be a very joyous time for so many families," Hapgood said. "And certainly, this does put a damper on some of that."

Pasker is survived by his wife, Erica; his parents, Mary and David Pasker of Blairstown; a brother, Andrew of Lisbon; and two sisters, Christine Ross of Oakland, Tenn., and Rebecca Southard of Salem, Ore. Funeral arrangements are pending.

A friend, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Gronewold, said Pasker was an upbeat, religious man.

"He was very well-liked. He knew how to take care of his soldiers," Gronewold said in a news conference at Camp Dodge in Johnston.

In civilian life, Pasker was a carpenter who owned a contracting business.

"He was a hard worker," Gronewold said. "You could tell he had that construction mentality."

Pasker enlisted in the Army in 1990 and joined the National Guard in 1995. He previously served in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005.

Gronewold said Pasker and his wife had been married about five years, and they intended to start a family after he retired from the military next year.

Pasker and Eipperle were among a handful of Iowa Guard troops who were mentoring Afghan police and army leaders in Panjshir province. Gronewold said his friend's main role was to maintain electronic equipment.

The New York Times reported that the attacker in Saturday's incident was a bodyguard for a high-ranking deputy of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security. The man was identified only as a 30-year-old named Aminullah, the newspaper said. An Afghan government official who knew the man told the Times he did not appear to have been connected to the Taliban.

This was the latest of several fatal attacks perpetrated by Afghan soldiers or police or by insurgents impersonating them. Some of those incidents apparently were designed to drive a wedge between the Americans and their Afghan allies, though authorities have said the motives in others were unclear.

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