<b>FORT STEWART, Ga. </b>- Two Fort Stewart Soldiers were killed after their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Mosul, Iraq, April 7. First Lieutenant Robert W. Collins and Spc. William Anthony Blount were both assigned to Company B, 1st Battalion, 64th Armor Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.

According to their Company Commander Capt. Thomas Carroll, the Soldiers were returning to the Joint Security Station from a mission, traveling a road that is traveled and cleared frequently. The Soldiers were both in the second vehicle of the convoy - Spc. Blount as the driver, and 1st Lt. Collins as the vehicle commander, also in the front seat. Their MRAP hit a crushed-wire IED, approximately 4-6 feet in front of explosive.

First Lieutenant Collins was a 2004 graduate of Sandy Creek (Ga.) High School, and a 2008 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. He arrived at Fort Stewart in June of 2009. He is survived by his parents, Lt. Col. (Ret.) Burkitt (Deacon) Collins and Lt. Col. (Ret.) Sharon L.G. Collins, and his fiancAfAe, Nicolle Williams.

Specialist Blount was a 2007 Petal (Miss.) High School graduate. He joined the Army in September 2008, and arrived at Fort Stewart in February 2009. He is survived by his wife, Amanda, who is eight months pregnant; his parents, Billy and Kay Blount; and sisters Laken and Lori.

Captain Carroll said that the Explosive Ordnance Disposal team is calling the explosive 70-80 lbs of HME (homemade explosive) or UBE (unknown bulk explosive) that was buried underneath the pavement.

"The thought is it had been there for awhile and somebody came in that day, connected wires and concealed wires," Capt. Carroll said. "The explosion was four feet behind where the front wheels were, which took apart the vehicle."

There were five other Soldiers in the vehicle - a gunner and four dismounts, who all survived.
According to Capt. Carroll, it was the leadership of 1st Lt. Collins, 24, that saved these Soldiers' lives.

"He was a company commander's dream; he was a platoon leader who was very young, but at the same time very mature," he said of the Tyrone, Ga., native. "(First Lieutenant Collins) always made sure his platoon was doing the right thing, and that is very evident that everyone else in the vehicle survived; they were wearing all of their protective equipment, all seat belted in."

Captain Carroll said that he and the 1/64 Armor leadership didn't have to worry about mission accomplishment when it involved 1st Lt. Collins' platoon.

"He was able to accomplish any mission, easy or hard, and he always accomplished it to the fullest meaning of the word," Capt. Carroll said.

Like his vehicle commander, Spc. Blount, of Petal, Miss., made his leader's lives easier.

"He was incredibly disciplined, unselfish and always thought of the well-being of others," Capt. Carroll said. "He made the leader's lives very easy. He was always doing the right thing and making sure his peers were doing the right thing. In short, he was the model Soldier."

Task Force Marne held a memorial for the Soldiers in Iraq, April 13.

"I said it today in my speech at their memorial; you can't explain it.There are no answers as to 'why,'" said Capt. Carroll. "Their vehicle was the second in the convoy; crushed wire is meant to explode on first impact, but it blew on the fifth and sixth tires - how do you explain that' You don't.

"We're very fortunate that we spend so much time together as infantrymen, training and living together," Capt. Carroll continued. "We realize that we have to come together, and we rely on each other to keep everybody going. We are a Family, and Families pull together in tough times. We survive and remain mission-focused because we don't have a choice. We still have six months left, and we still have a lot left to accomplish, and that's what keeps us going right now."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16