By Gerry J. GilmoreSeptember 18, 2008
Editor's note: Sept. 19 is MIA/POW Recognition Day
WASHINGTON (Sept. 18, 2008) - The U.S. military never stops searching for servicemembers reported as captured or missing during the global war on terrorism or those missing from past wars.
"The combatant commanders that are out in the field today are working to find any servicemembers who are missing in the current conflicts" in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Air Force Capt. Mary R. Olsen, a public affairs officer for the Pentagon's POW/MIA Office in Arlington, Va.
No U.S. servicemembers, she said, are now listed as missing or captured during operations in Afghanistan. One U.S. soldier is currently listed as missing-captured in Iraq. The search continues for Army Spc. Ahmed Altaei, who was reported as being captured in Iraq on Oct. 23, 2006.
The remains of three other U.S. soldiers who had been reported as missing-captured in Iraq were recovered and identified earlier this year, Olsen said.
Army Spc. Alex Jimenez, of Lawrence, Mass., and Army Pvt. Byron Fouty, of Waterford, Mich., were captured in Iraq on May 12, 2007. On July 10, the Armed Forces Medical Examiner positively identified their remains. Army Staff Sgt. Matt Maupin, captured April 9, 2004, was identified March 20.
Jimenez and Fouty were part of a patrol that was ambushed by enemy forces south of Baghdad on May 12, 2007. They were assigned to the 10th Mountain Division's 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, Fort Drum, N.Y.
Iraqi police found the remains of a third soldier who was first reported as missing in the ambush -- Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif. -- on May 23, 2007.
U.S. commanders in Iraq had conducted intense searches for the missing soldiers who were identified this year, Olsen said. The discovery of the remains of the missing soldiers, she said, helped "to bring some closure to their families."
Jimenez and Fouty were part of a patrol of seven Americans and an Iraqi army interpreter when they were attacked by insurgents. At the time, the area in and around Mahmudiyah was a stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq. A quick-reaction force dispatched to the scene found five soldiers killed in action and three missing.
Maupin, an Army reservist, was among two soldiers and seven contract employees reported missing after insurgents attacked their fuel convoy west of Baghdad on April 9, 2004. Maupin was later reported as the only missing soldier. The Army announced March 20, 2008, that it had found and identified Maupin's remains through DNA.
Modern satellite-enabled communications devices and advanced forensics greatly assist today's recovery and identification operations, Olsen said, so that "servicemembers don't go [on] missing."
Additionally, Olsen's agency and the Joint POW-MIA Accounting Command are involved in ongoing efforts to find servicemembers reported missing from conflicts conducted decades ago.
"We are showing today's servicemembers and the families of today's servicemembers that these people that we send in harm's way will not be forgotten, if, God forbid, something should happen," Olsen said. "We will do everything in our power to bring them home and that we will remember their sacrifices."
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recognized the four then-missing soldiers at last year's POW/MIA Day ceremony held at the Pentagon Sept. 21, 2007.
"They may not be well known to the public, but within the brotherhood of arms, they will never be forgotten or left behind," Gates said of the then-missing soldiers Maupin, Jimenez and Fouty, and the still-missing Altaei.
"These men are the latest additions to the ranks of tens of thousands who remain missing from previous conflicts," the defense secretary said of the missing soldiers. "And they are the latest additions to the ranks of those we remember today."
A Pentagon ceremony tomorrow for this year's National POW/MIA Recognition Day will feature troops from each of the military services. The president will issue a proclamation commemorating the observances and reminding the nation of those Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country.
(Gerry J. Gilmore writes for the American Forces Press Service.)