Forensics under fire

LTC Van Auken and Maj Flannery (DOD photo)

LTC Van Auken and Maj Flannery (DOD photo)

No job is routine in a war zone.

A couple of years ago, two Army officers were assigned to escort and assist a Kuwaiti forensics team that was trying to repatriate the bodies of Kuwaiti Prisoners of War near Kabala, Iraq (most of the team was Polish). As the 12-vehicle convoy traveled over a causeway, ten daisy-chained 155mm mortar rounds exploded beneath them, destroying four vehicles and throwing the column into disarray.

Van Auken and Flannery jumped out and took charge of the area. They ordered the destroyed vehicles moved off the causeway, consolidated the remaining vehicles in a secure area, deployed security forces, and applied first aid. Their actions prevented a counter attack, and they were credited with saving several lives. No one was killed.

The attack occurred in 2007, in the early days of the surge, when violence was at an all time high. What eventually turned the tide in the war was the spectacular performance and unwavering bravery of the American military. LTC Kate Van Auken and Maj Lauralee Flannery, dutifully serving in a little-known and largely unheralded job, were a part of it too. Their performance under attack was no less spectacular, and became one of the countless contributions to the overall success of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

They are our heroes of the week.


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