Baghdad bomb kills battalion's top officer
The Army colonel served under the isles' 29th Brigade
A top Army officer in Iraq affiliated with Hawaii's 29th Brigade Combat Team has been killed a few months after taking charge.
The Pentagon said Lt. Col. William Wood, who was promoted posthumously to a full colonel, was killed Thursday when he responded to a bomb explosion near Baghdad that had killed one of his company commanders. During this response a second homemade bomb exploded nearby.
Wood, 44, was a regular Army officer who had recently taken command of the 1st Battalion of the 184th Infantry Regiment, one of three units assigned to the 29th Brigade Combat Team.
Wood, from Panama City, Fla., was one of three soldiers killed during the past week affiliated with the 29th Brigade Combat team.
On Sunday, two soldiers from the 100th Battalion's Echo Company were killed near Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad, when a homemade bomb exploded near their Humvee. The soldiers were from Saipan.
So far, 10 soldiers assigned to the 29th Brigade Combat Team have died since the unit deployed to Iraq in late February.
Of the 10 soldiers, only Sgt. Deyson "Dice" Cariaga, a member of the 229th Military Intelligence Company, was from the islands.
Wood was stationed at Fort Stewart, Ga., before he was sent to Iraq. He was directing his soldiers on a road that had been a bombing site moments earlier, CNN reported. A secondary explosion killed him and blew him backward into one of the canals.
Yesterday, Col. Ed Cardon, who commands the 4th Brigade Combat Team, to which the 184th reports during its combat assignment in Iraq, said in a letter to the Los Angeles Times: "The 1-184 (1st Battalion, 184th Infantry) operates in one of Baghdad's toughest areas.
"Most recently the local population there was threatened by terrorists who told them not to vote or they would be killed. These threats failed yet again -- initial reports indicate that more Iraqis voted this time than in January, and the election violence was much lower."
Wood's father, Jimmy, an Air Force veteran, described his son as a "people person" who loved the Army. He is survived by his wife and a daughter.
His father told the Associated Press that his son's last e-mail came just four days before he died. Jimmy Wood said the e-mail "talked about delivering ballots to the polling places, and that the Iraqi people were really glad to have an opportunity to vote in a free election."
An outdoorsman and Boy Scout who played golf and rode quarter horses, Wood followed his father into the military after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in political science.
"He thought the Army was the best thing since sliced bread," said Jimmy Wood.
Wood will be buried Monday in Barrancas National Cemetery at Pensacola Naval Air Station.
The California battalion -- one of three infantry units assigned to Hawaii's 29th Brigade Combat Team -- has had problems since arriving in Iraq earlier this year.
Three of its sergeants have been imprisoned and four other soldiers sentenced to hard labor for their role in abusing Iraqi nationals who were taken into custody near Baghdad and apparently mistaken for insurgents.
About 10 percent of the soldiers from the California unit have been wounded or killed.
Last month, three soldiers from the unit, which is based in Fullerton, Calif., pleaded guilty in special courts-martial and were sentenced to up to 12 months for the alleged abuse of prisoners that took place in March at a power plant near Baghdad.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Oct. 15 that investigators have examined complaints that soldiers from the battalion charged unauthorized "rent" to Iraqi-owned businesses operating on an Army base.
A first sergeant was also relieved of duty after he was accused of conducting a mock execution by firing his pistol next to the Iraqi detainee's temple, the newspaper said.
The battalion's commander, Lt. Col. Patrick Frey of Salinas, Calif., was suspended.