U.S. soldiers killed in Afghanistan told families mission would be dangerous
Jason Bogar, who grew up in the Seattle and Everett areas and attended Bothell High School, was one of nine American soldiers killed Sunday in a unit of 45 U.S. soldiers who joined with 25 Afghanistan soldiers in a desperate battle to hold a remote village outpost under assault from some 200 Taliban fighters. He and another soldier told their families before the mission that the assignment would be dangerous.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Earlier this month, Cpl. Jason Bogar called home to Seattle, avoiding any mention of the hazards involved in his upcoming Afghanistan mission. Instead, he talked to his mom about the chocolate-chip cookies he had recently received and his excitement over an August return to the Pacific Northwest.
Another soldier in Bogar's unit was blunt in a call home. He predicted the impending mission would be a "bloodbath," according to The St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Bogar, who grew up in the Seattle and Everett areas and attended Bothell High School, was one of nine American soldiers killed Sunday in a unit of 45 U.S. soldiers who joined with 25 Afghan soldiers in a desperate battle to hold a remote village outpost under assault from some 200 Taliban fighters.
His family feels a mix of grief and anger as they ponder the circumstances of his death amid an Afghanistan campaign that Pentagon leaders openly acknowledge needs more troops.
"This whole thing has escalated in the last three or four months, and as a mother, it's terrifying to watch these things unfold and know that your son is in a situation where he might not have the support or backup," said Carlene Cross, Bogar's mother. "I don't know why they would go into an area without proper firepower. It just doesn't make much sense."
Bogar's unit with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team was under command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. The unit was able to hold the outpost in the village of Wanat amid fierce close-quarters combat in a rugged forested area of northeast Afghanistan.
But the outpost was abandoned earlier this week, and the circumstances surrounding Sunday's battle are under investigation by the Pentagon.
The deaths of Bogar, 25, and eight of his comrades are sobering evidence of the threat posed by the Taliban insurgency at a time when the U.S. military is stretched thin by a much bigger commitment of troops to Iraq.
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wants to draw down troops in Iraq and send additional combat troops to Afghanistan.
"I have the need for three additional brigades in Afghanistan," Mullen said. "Those are the pressures and constraints that we are under right now," he said in a June visit to Fort Lewis. "We are in a very delicate time."
Pentagon planners now hope to send one additional brigade to Afghanistan this fall. In a news conference this week, Mullen noted that the Wanat outpost had too few troops to combat the size of the Taliban force that attacked.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade soldiers appeared to know they were headed into a perilous situation as they headed off to Wanat earlier this month.
In a phone call to his sister, Bogar said this final mission in Afghanistan would involve some dangerous duty.
"He didn't normally talk about things being dangerous but said things were starting to become more active and violent as the summer came," said Carise Martindale, Bogar's sister, who lives in the Puget Sound area.
In a final call home before the mission, another soldier in the unit, Cpl. Gunnar Zwilling of Florissant, Mo., also expressed concern.
"He said, 'Dad, I don't want to go because I know it's going to be a bloodbath. But I'll go because that's my job,' " Kurt Zwilling, 53, of O'Fallon, Mo., told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team is part of a force of more than 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. They have faced a tough fight against the Taliban forces but that did not deter Bogar — a veteran of previous tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan — from volunteering for a third deployment last year.
"He wanted to go back — it wasn't to kill people but to help people," said Michael Bogar, Jason Bogar's father and a minister at the Spiritual Enrichment Center at West Sound on Bainbridge Island. "I tried to persuade him not to go. I told him that they [the Taliban] would hunker down over the winter but that all hell was going to break loose in the summer."
Michael Bogar says he hopes the death of his son and eight other soldiers will help spur the nation to develop a unified policy for Afghanistan.
"I am fighting a lot of resentment right now. ... " Bogar said. "We need to go there and do the job — or get the hell out until we're motivated."
Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581 or email@example.com
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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