Blast Kills 2nd BCT's No. 2

November 7th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: Blast Kills 2nd BCT's No. 2

Colorado Springs Gazette
November 7, 2006
Pg. 1

Kruger, 2 from replacement unit die in Baghdad
By Brian Newsome, The Gazette
A roadside bomb killed the deputy commander of Fort Carson’s largest force in Iraq on Thursday along with two other soldiers, the military announced Monday.
Lt. Col. Eric J. Kruger, 40, of Garland, Texas, died along with Lt. Col. Paul J. Finken, 40, of Mason City, Iowa, and Staff Sgt. Joseph A. Gage, 28, of Modesto, Calif., when their Humvee struck a bomb in eastern Baghdad.
Kruger was second in command of the 3,800-soldier 2nd Brigade Combat Team, which arrived in Baghdad last week.
He was married with two young children, said his neighbor, Holly Bliss.
The 2nd BCT has been working with the unit it is replacing, the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, out of Fort Campbell, Ky. The other two men killed were members of that unit.
“It has been difficult, to say the least,” said Maj. Sean Ryan, a 2nd BCT spokesman, in an e-mail Monday from Iraq.
As of Oct. 28, the Army had lost 13 lieutenant colonels in the Iraq war. The explosion Thursday killed two more.
Kruger is the highest-ranking officer from Fort Carson to die in the war. Finken was the second-highest-ranking officer from Fort Campbell to be killed in Iraq.
The three men were riding together in what is known as the “right seat and left seat ride,” Ryan said, in which one leader prepares the other to take command.
“We have since changed tactics and no two key leaders will ride together for safety purposes,” Ryan said.
Kruger served in Afghanistan for a year before being assigned to the 2nd BCT in February.
“He was a wonderful, caring man and a good leader,” said Dee McNutt, a spokeswoman for Fort Carson who worked with Kruger at times. “He cared about all his soldiers and he gave 100 percent to them every single day.”
Bliss, the Krugers’ neighbor, said Kruger and his wife, Sara, moved into their northeast Colorado Springs home the same week as her family did last March. The Krugers’ children, a 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, have played with her 2-year-old son.
Kruger joined the military in 1989. He earned a Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, among other commendations. In addition to Afghanistan, he had served in Bahrain. He had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Methodist University.
Finken received a Bronze Star, along with multiple other commendations, during his time in the Army. He is survived by his wife, Jackie, and daughters Emilie, Caroline, and Julia of Clarksville, Tenn.
Finken headed a Military Transition Team, which was training the Iraqi Army’s 2nd Battalion.
Finken told USA Today in August that training Iraqis was a Catch-22, because they knew the neighborhoods well but also were hesitant to fight against people they knew.
“You’re now putting tribal loyalties at odds with some military operations,” Finken said.
Finken was a 1989 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He was an infantry officer assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 506th Infantry Regiment. He entered the Army in 1989 and arrived at Fort Campbell in June 2003.
Gage was an infantryman assigned to B Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team. He was a 10-year military veteran.
Gage received an Army Good Conduct Medal, among several commendations. He is survived by his wife, Samantha, and son, Michael, of Fort Campbell.
A Fort Carson spokesman said the Army has several options for reassigning Kruger’s responsibilities but declined to elaborate.

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