By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, June 22, 2006 – Military officials have positively identified two bodies discovered June 18 as those of two 101st Airborne Division soldiers kidnapped at gunpoint two days earlier by masked gunmen in Iraq. Defense Department officials today announced the deaths of Army Pfc. Thomas L. Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore.; and Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of San Marcos, Texas. Both had been previously listed as "duty status-whereabouts unknown" after their abduction June 16.
The soldiers were manning a checkpoint in Iraq when their unit, from the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, came under enemy small-arms fire, defense officials said. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, expressed condolences during a press briefing today to the families of Menchaca, Tucker and Army Spc. David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., who was killed during the attack. He declined, however, to give details about how Menchaca and Tucker had been treated by their abductors. "That's something we're leaving to the families," who Casey said will be notified of the autopsy results as they are completed.
"I just don't think it's my business to be out talking about that," the general said. "That's up to them." Casey did, however, say the deaths serve as "an indicator of the type of enemy that we are fighting." "It's why we're there," he said. "And it's why we're fighting terrorism in Iraq, so we don't have to fight it here."
The full circumstances of the incident that led to the soldiers' abduction is under investigation. "We're going to let the investigation run its course, and then we'll give you a full accounting when it's completed," he said. In the meantime, units in Iraq are already taking action to ensure the incident isn't repeated. "I know commanders at every level have already gone back and revisited their procedures and reemphasized the operating procedures that they have in place to ensure that this doesn't happen," he said. "And I'm sure we'll be informed further when the investigation is completed. We routinely go back and do that across the board."