In Iraq, Pawlenty meets with fallen soldiers' colleaguesST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivered condolences in person to the Minnesota National Guard unit that last week lost three soldiers to a rocket attack.
By: Don Davis, Woodbury Bulletin
ST. PAUL – Gov. Tim Pawlenty delivered condolences in person to the Minnesota National Guard unit that last week lost three soldiers to a rocket attack.
Talking to Minnesota reporters via conference call from Kuwait, Pawlenty said he just ended a two-day visit to Iraq, including the Basra base where Spec. Daniel P. Drevnick, 22, of Woodbury, Spc. James Wertish, 20, of Olivia and Spec. Carlos E. Wilcox IV, 27, of Cottage Grove died Thursday.
"They are very sad, they are heartbroken for fallen colleagues," Pawlenty said about the Stillwater-based military police unit in which the three soldiers served.
The subdued Pawlenty, whose Iraq visit was scheduled months ago, said the late soldiers' colleagues praised the trio as among the best people – not just soldiers – they had known.
The governor also sent a message to the soldiers' families: "We are thankful for their sons and what they represented ... and their service to their country."
Pawlenty said the state will do what it can to help families through their time of grief.
While overall, violence is down from what was common during his 2006 and 2007 Iraqi visits, Pawlenty said the Thursday incident shows that danger remains.
More than 1,000 Minnesota troops are in Iraq, with the Rosemount-based 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division in charge of both National Guard and active Army troops in half of Iraq. Pawlenty said this is the first time since World War II that a Guard unit has shouldered such command responsibility.
The Stillwater military police unit is part of the Red Bull division.
The governor would not give details about the attack on the Basra base, citing military officials' request that he be silent on the topic.
However, the military said the three were killed at 9:15 p.m. Iraqi time Thursday, 1:15 p.m. Minnesota time. Pawlenty said it was a rocket that killed the three.
A fourth soldier was hurt, but military officials have not released information about that soldier other than to say he, too, was part of the Stillwater unit.
An Iraqi police official said a man with Iran connections was arrested for the attack.