05 November 2007

Fallen Air Force OSI agents honored

Two unidentified members of an Air Force Office of Special Investigations team on Sunday honor three special agents who died from a roadside bomb last Thursday near Balad Air Base in Iraq. Story and Photo: Scott Schonauer / S&S

Brig Gen. Dana Simmons, commander of the Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations, told those who gathered for a memorial ceremony that he always makes two promises to the families of special agents killed in combat. First, he gives them his word that their loved ones will be honored and not forgotten.

“The second promise I will make to them — and OSI has a very good history with this — we will get the people who did this," Simmons said.

Master Sgt. Thomas A. Crowell, 36, of Neosho, Mo., Staff Sgt. David A. Wieger, 28, of North Huntingdon, Pa., and Nathan J. Schuldheiss, 27, a Defense Department civilian investigator from Newport, R.I., died from wounds sustained from a bomb near the American military base in Balad. They were on an intelligence gathering mission against insurgents in the area when they were hit by the blast.

The agency, which includes active-duty, reserve and civilian personnel, has lost seven agents since the U.S. invaded Iraq in March 2003. OSI has lost five just this year. Two other agents, Tech. Sgt. Ryan A. Balmer and Staff Sgt. Matthew J. Kuglics, were killed on June 5 when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

Air Force special agents spend much of their time in Iraq in teams of 10 to 12 working off base trying to gather information on insurgents and thwart attacks against U.S. bases. (...) Last year, 130 agents in Iraq and Afghanistan seized 20 tons of weapons and captured or killed more than 500 terrorists and insurgents.

(...) All three fallen agents posthumously received Bronze Star Medals for their service in Iraq. It is rare for a civilian to receive such an honor, which is given for heroic or meritorious achievement while serving in or with the military.

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