Three Idaho soldiers who specialized in clearing roadside bombs were killed in an explosion Thursday in al-Anbar province, Iraq, Idaho military officials said Friday.
It marked the deadliest day for Idaho soldiers since the U.S. war on terror was declared in October 2001.
Two other Idaho soldiers from the same battalion were injured that day, one seriously, said Capt. John Vogt, the battalion's rear detachment officer.
Killed in the attack were:
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• Pfc. Raymond M. Werner, 22, whose wife lives in Boise.
• Sgt. James Holtom, 22, whose parents live in Rexburg.
• Spec. Ross A. Clevenger, 22, whose mother lives in Melba.
The injured are:
• Staff Sgt. George G. Nickel, 37, of Boise, who suffered a broken leg and shrapnel in his face.
• Sgt. John J. Green, 45, of Boise, who was slightly injured.
The soldiers deployed with the 321st Engineer Battalion to Iraq in September, Vogt said.
Vogt said the deaths bring to four the number of 321st soldiers killed in Iraq — the other soldier killed was from Wisconsin — and 30 soldiers from the battalion have been injured. The battalion patrols a large area from Baghdad to the Syrian border.
"IEDs are prevalent, and our men have been very busy defeating them," he said.
On Thursday, four of the soldiers were riding together in a South African-made RG31 armored anti-mine truck when the bomb exploded.
The fifth soldier was wounded in a second bomb explosion nearby, Vogt said.
The attacks happened around 9:30 a.m in the town of Karmah, 20 miles northeast of Fallujah.
The families of the soldiers could not be reached for comment Friday.
At a press conference Friday at the battalion's Gowen Field headquarters, Vogt would not talk about soldiers' backgrounds. Local officials had released the names of the soldiers after notifying family, but before the proper time had elapsed according to Department of Defense guidelines.
Vogt did say the unit is tight-knit and that the deaths will be tough for the unit.
"One of the deceased I've had since he was a private at age 17, so it affects us greatly," Vogt said.
The vehicle the soldiers were riding in has a V-shaped hull designed to direct the force of an explosion away from the high-set cab, minimizing blast impact, Vogt said.
Vogt said the bomb would have to be massive to do the damage it did to the vehicle.
Gov. Butch Otter released a statement expressing condolences to the soldiers' families.
"The young men who gave their last full measure in service to our country, like all those whose sacrifice makes our freedom possible from generation to generation, deserve our gratitude and respect," he said. "Their families, their loved ones and their friends deserve our support and help though the difficult days ahead."
Twenty seven Idahoans have been killed since 2001.
To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Heath Druzin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 373-6617.