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Army releases findings from 507th ambush

Army News Service

Release Date: 7/17/2003

By Staff Sgt. Marcia Triggs

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, July 17, 2003) - The Army released a 15-page report today stating that members of the 507th Maintenance Company fought the best they could in Iraq until there was no longer a means to resist.

Elements of the Fort Bliss maintenance company became an American interest when a navigational error caused them to come under attack March 23 in the city of An Nasiriyah.

The report states that of the 33 soldiers in the 18-vehicle convoy, six soldiers returned fire while moving and were able to maneuver their vehicles through the ambush and rejoin friendly forces.

Faced with small-arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades from all sides, 10 more members of the 507th were forced to set up a defensive perimeter after a number of their vehicles became inoperable. Under the supervision of Sgt. Matthew Rose, the report states that members of the team who were trained as combat lifesavers tended to wounded soldiers.

Marines from the 8th Tank Battalion, Task Force Tarawa, eventually rescued the 10 soldiers after being informed of the situation by the six soldiers who escaped the ambush.

Contributing factors that led to the others being killed, dying from injuries or taken as prisoners of war were heavy vehicles that were unable to maneuver in the desert terrain and malfunctioning weapons, according to the report.

The report states numerous times that M-16 rifles malfunctioned or jammed. Other weapons that malfunctioned were the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon and the .50 caliber machinegun. However, the team that conducted the report did not find persistent problems with weapons, specifically the M16A2 rifle.

"Dusty, desert conditions do require vigilance in weapons maintenance," officials said. "However, it is imperative to remember that at the time of the attack, the 507th had spent more than two days on the move, with little rest and time to conduct vehicle repair and recovery operations," officials said.

The report is intended to provide closure for the families of those who made the ultimate sacrifice, it states in its opening paragraph. In a narrative form, a brief description of the maintenance company's role and mission is given. The details begin March 20 and end March 23, the day of the attack, which lasted an estimated hour to 90 minutes.

The treatment and the rescue of the former prisoners of war are not mentioned in this report. That's being investigated separately, officials said.

Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, a member of the 507th, was rescued April 1 by U.S. military commandos from an Iraqi hospital. However, the report only states that she was seriously injured and captured when her Humvee was hit by direct or indirect fire and crashed into a stalled vehicle. Lynch was in the backseat of the vehicle.

Pfc. Lori Piestewa, the only female casualty during the ground war, was the driver of the Humvee. She was captured along with Lynch, but died of her injuries, the report states.

The remaining five POWs from the company, which also included female soldier Spc. Shoshana Johnson, were rescued April 13 by the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The information used to compile this report was taken from witness statements and other collected information, officials stated. Family members of those soldiers who were killed in action and the former POWs have already been briefed on the findings, officials added.

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