Posted: Sunday, July 10, 2011 12:24 am | Updated: 8:39 am, Wed Jul 13, 2011.
Idaho soldiers die in Iraq by NICK ROTUNNO/Staff writer The Coeur d' Alene Press | 9 comments
POST FALLS - Two North Idaho soldiers died in Thursday's roadside bomb attack outside Victory Base Camp in Baghdad, the Department of Defense and Idaho National Guard confirmed Saturday.
Spc. Nathan R. Beyers, 24, and Spc. Nicholas W. Newby, 20, both of Coeur d'Alene, were killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) when insurgent forces attacked their vehicle convoy, according to a Department of Defense press release.
Both men were assigned to the 145th Brigade Support Battalion, 116th Cavalry Heavy Brigade Combat Team based in Post Falls. The unit was in Iraq supporting Operation New Dawn, a National Guard press release said.
"This is an extremely sad time for the citizen soldiers and citizen airmen of the Idaho National Guard," Maj. Gen. Gary L. Sayler, commanding general of the Idaho National Guard, said in the release. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members of these fine Idaho citizen soldiers."
Staff Sergeant Jason Rzepa, also a member of the 116th and from the Coeur d'Alene area, sustained serious leg injuries in the same attack, the National Guard said, Rzepa was stabilized and transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for further treatment.
Guardsmen and women gathered at the Post Falls Armory on Saturday for a routine unit training assembly. The post was quiet and businesslike, the American flag outside the building flying at half-staff.
"(Beyers and Newby) took the ultimate sacrifice," said Spc. Darren Friesen, 23, of Coeur d'Alene. "They did the job, and they did it very well. You want to remember the good they did, and not the bad thing that happened."
He said the National Guard is much like a big family, and the soldiers are very close.
"I'm definitely feeling a lot of anger, pain, frustration..." Friesen said.
Beyers leaves behind a wife, Vanessa, and an infant daughter. Newby had several family members in the area, including his mother, Theresa Hart, his father, Wayne Newby, and brothers Nathan and Ryder.
Family members did not comment directly, but did release statements.
"Nathan was proud of his job and serving our country," Vanessa Beyers said. "He died doing something he loved and was such a brave person. We are going to miss him."
Newby's mother and father recalled his great sense of humor and his curiosity. They said he was a great musician who played many instruments, and that he loved fishing, camping and road trips.
"Nick would do anything for anybody who needed his help," Theresa Hart and Wayne Newby said. "He'd stick by his friends and never gave up on anybody. Nick loved his family, and everybody loved him."
The deadly attack on the American convoy occurred near a well-guarded checkpoint, the Associated Press reported. The insurgents, who appeared to be Shiite militia, used an armor-piercing explosive called an EFP.
"A large role of our troops over there is convoy security," said Col. Tim Marsano, Idaho National Guard spokesman.
Most of the convoy vehicles are heavily armored, he said, and designed to withstand the blast of an IED. Soldiers wear helmets and armor when traveling on Iraq's dangerous roads.
Beyers' and Newby's remains were scheduled to arrive at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Saturday night. They will likely be repatriated to Idaho.
The roughly 2,700 soldiers who comprise the 116th CBCT are in the midst of a yearlong deployment to Iraq, the Guard said. The brigade is scheduled to return to the United States in September.
Marsano said he spoke with some of the 116th soldiers after the attack.
"They're angry, they're sad, but they know they have a mission to complete."
The National Guard offers grief counseling and minister services, Chief William Largen said. There's a general "open door policy."
Largen, an Army combat veteran and former Navy submariner, said Beyers and Newby were hard workers, liked to learn and were willing to take instruction.
"These men are the epitome of the National Guard, the epitome of the Army, the epitome of what's good about this country," he said.