Three more Stryker brigade soldiers have been killed by insurgent bombs in Iraq, the Department of Defense reported Thursday.
The Pentagon identified the soldiers as:
• Staff Sgt. David C. Kuehl, 27, of Wahpeton, N.D.
• Staff Sgt. Kristopher A. Higdon, 25, of Odessa, Texas
• Pfc. Robert A. Worthington, 19, of Jackson, Ga.
All died of wounds sustained Tuesday in Taji, about 10 miles north of Baghdad, after bombs were detonated near their units, according to a Pentagon news release.
Higdon and Worthington, of B Company of the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, were killed in one bombing. Kuehl, of C Company from the same battalion, died in a separate attack, the military said.
All three men left Fort Lewis in April with the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and arrived in Iraq this month. The brigade has now lost six soldiers in its three or so weeks in combat.
The latest casualties add to what was already Fort Lewis’ worst month of the Iraq war, with the post now having lost 14 soldiers in May.
About 10,000 Fort Lewis troops are in Iraq, including the 4th Brigade and another Stryker brigade, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
Kuehl, an infantry squad leader, joined the Army in 1999 and was serving on his third deployment. He went to Iraq in 2004-05 with the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood, Texas, and to Kosovo for four months in 2001 with a unit based in Germany.
He and his wife, Amy, named their second daughter, 9-month-old Messa, after a little girl he befriended on his first tour in Iraq, Amy Kuehl told The Associated Press on Thursday. He also leaves behind a 7-year-old daughter, Kiley.
“He just liked her name. She was a cute little girl. I never did get a picture of her or anything, but ever since that day, we kept that name,” Amy Kuehl said. “We never told anybody.
“He was a great father.”
Higdon likewise joined the Army in 1999 and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and Fort Hood before arriving at Fort Lewis in July 2005.
Higdon’s family told their hometown Odessa American newspaper that he was serving his second tour in Iraq. He’d been home in March for a visit, and went to school with his younger brother, Kaleb, 15, to visit with his world geography class.
“They were completely enthralled in everything he had to say,” Kaleb’s teacher, Michele Martinez, told the Odessa American.
Higdon is survived by his wife, MaKayne, a daughter and a son, Kacie and Hunter, his parents and three brothers.
He stayed close with his brothers via their MySpace.com pages, they said.
“He just told me he loved me, and that he’d see me soon,” Kaleb said.
Worthington joined the Army last June and arrived at Fort Lewis in January after basic training and airborne school.
The 4th Brigade left Fort Lewis about a month ahead of schedule to arrive in Iraq as part of the surge of U.S. forces.
Thursday’s news of more Fort Lewis casualties came after President Bush earlier in the day warned that more U.S. troops would likely be killed and wounded in the months ahead, particularly leading up to September, when Gen. David Petraeus is due to go back to Congress to report on the success of his security plan.
The president said insurgents in Iraq would likely step up their attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops as well as Iraqi civilians “to try to influence the debate here at home.”
“It could be a very difficult August,” he told reporters at a Rose Garden news conference.
The 4th Brigade headquarters, along with the 4-9 Battalion and other elements of the brigade, moved up to Taji this month to begin operations in villages along the Tigris River in southern Diyala province.
Taji is a major U.S. base.
Michael Gilbert: 253-597-8921