1/10 FA Regt farewells fallen Soldiers
March 18, 2010
<b>CONTINGENCY OPERATING STATION KALSU, Iraq</b> - Members of the 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, filed into the auditorium at Contingency Operating Station Delta, Iraq, for a memorial ceremony, March 12.
"Of all the reasons we could come together, this is one of the more unpleasant," said Chap. (Capt.) Timothy Griffis, 1/10 FA. "If we sat and thought of reasons for gathering, this would certainly not make the list."
A few days earlier, Sgt. Aaron Arthur and Sgt. Lakeshia Bailey died when the vehicle they were in turned over on a return trip to COS Delta from An Numaniyah Military Training Base.
Lieutenant Colonel Shaun E. Tooke, the commander of 1/10 FA, reflected on the timing of the accident in his speech to his troops. Just days before, Soldiers of the 3rd HBCT had helped Iraqi Security Forces provide security and support during the Iraqi special and national elections.
"Listening in on the commander's update, you could feel the pride, joy and sense of accomplishment, which is a reflection of the hard work, tireless dedication and commitment to serve by everyone present today," said Lt. Col. Tooke. "Then, within 12 hours, we went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows as we received the report of a vehicle rollover and learned of our comrades' fate."
He emphasized that the loss of any Soldier is tragic, but Sgt. Arthur and Sgt. Bailey's untimely deaths affected more than just Company G, 1/10 FA platoon mates.
"In this case, our loss has a greater impact, reaching across the brigade formation," Lt. Col. Tooke said. "They were loved and revered; not only in the Spartan and Rock's Support Family, but also within Doom Troop of 3/1 Cavalry [3rd Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment] and the Support and Defend [203rd Brigade Support Battalion] at Kalsu. This speaks volumes to their character as Soldiers, the friendships they formed and the impressions they made with their subordinates, peers and superiors. I can imagine there are those among the Iraqi Police and Army that returned from the scene, after assisting with traffic control and security, who also mourned and prayed for our beloved Soldiers."
As their interpreters translated Lt. Col. Tooke's words, representatives from the Iraqi National Police, sitting in the front row, nodded in agreement.
Described by many as "like brother and sister," Sgt. Arthur and Sgt. Bailey's loss was easily seen as members of the audience broke down in tears and bowed their heads in sorrow.
"Sergeant Arthur was a true Golf Company Soldier," said Capt. Steven Austin, the commander of Company G. "He spent his entire Army career in this unit...he was always in a vehicle, always on the road. Like a true 88 [88M- Heavy Wheel Operator], he preferred the road and not the FOB [Forward Operating Base]. Sergeant Arthur was the epitome of a heavy wheel operator. He could drive anything, tell you about any vehicle, and was a professional that strived to be an expert at his MOS [Military Occupational Specialty]. He was a warrior; ready to conduct any mission anytime, anywhere."
Staff Sergeant Michael Jones, Sgt. Arthur's platoon sergeant in Company G, reminded the audience of Arthur's profound character traits.
"Sergeant Arthur was firmly committed," said Staff Sgt. Jones. "He was able to overcome life's circumstances with flexibility. He was nimble and able to adapt to spontaneous changes...If you knew or ever met Sgt. Arthur, you would know that his character would be the last thing in question. His character was forged by determination and enduring past defeat."
Staff Sergeant Jones reminisced with his fellow Soldiers what a blessing Sgt. Arthur was to the platoon and took solace in having served with him.
"Sergeant Arthur was always high in spirits," he said. "He could balance the extremes for the betterment of all. He would never let you see him sweat... I knew Sergeant Arthur for about six years, and for six years I have been blessed to serve with him."
Sergeant Bailey was described as a little sister to everyone in Company G, by those who knew her best throughout the service. According to them, Sgt. Bailey was someone with sheer force of personality, who could win people over.
"She had a way of lighting up a room when she walked in," said Sgt. Brett Quinn, her platoon mate in Company G. "It didn't matter if everyone was in a bad mood or not, when (Sgt.) Bailey walked in, she was going to talk to everyone, and she was going to make you talk to her."
As nice and as popular as she was described, her superiors also retold the audience that she was a committed Soldier.
"She wanted to participate and be a part of every mission," said Capt. Austin. "Sergeant Bailey constantly wanted to better herself personally and professionally. If she was not on the road driving, she was working diligently on her correspondence courses to earn the rank of sergeant. For the past three weeks, she stayed on the computer completing courses to raise her points. She would have found out about her promotable status on 21 March."
The memorial also featured a heartfelt letter from the Bailey Family that encouraged the Soldiers of 1/10 FA to stay committed to their mission and find solace that their daughter died in the noble service of their country.
"Sergeant Arthur and Sergeant Bailey are now our angels; Spartan's angels that will guide us up and down the roads for the next seven months and beyond," said Capt. Austin. "Although their bodies are gone, their spirits live."
As Soldiers went up to salute the stands honoring their fallen comrades, many clutched Sgt. Bailey and Sgt. Arthur's dog tags or rubbed their boots. Many broke down emotionally and some remained stoic. It was a heartfelt goodbye for two Soldiers who were considered the heart of Company G's distribution platoon.
Many of their comrades took comfort in the fact that the two friends, who were so inseparable in life, were able to go out on one final mission together.
"The Spartans commonly referred to Sergeant Arthur and Sergeant Bailey as a brother and sister," said Lt. Col. Tooke. "The two of them were inseparable. They played together, ate together, sang together, worked together, laughed together and, on March 8, they left this world together."