An Iowa National Guard unit that’s suffered two casualties in Iraq was hit again Tuesday. Guard spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Greg Hapgood says 21-year-old specialist John Miller of West Burlington died Tuesday while working with Company A of the 224th Engineering Battalion. (Miller is shown in picture above)
He says the soldiers came across a pair of 155-millimeter shells in a crater on the ground. As the clearing operation began, the soldiers fanned out to provide security. Miller was in the hatch of an armored personnel carrier when he was hit by a single shot from a sniper and killed. Hapgood says one of the 224th’s jobs is to clear out the so-called improvised explosive devices, and that’s what was happening in this case.
He says the information given says the shells were in the crater almost as if they could explode if hit. Hapgood says the unit brings in what is called a buffalo vehicle to clear out the explosives and Miller was providing security when he was hit. Hapgood says snipers are an additional hazard that goes along with the explosive devices.
He says it’s not unusual to have an explosive device by a roadside and to also have an ambush or sniper in the area too — especially in the “Suni Triangle” area where this attack occurred. Hapgood says the Iowa Guard does not know if the sniper from the attack on Miller was caught or killed. Miller had worked fulltime at WalMart and is survived by his father, two brothers and a sister who all live in the Burlington area. This is the third member of Company A to die in Iraq as Lieutenant Richard Gienau died February 27th and specialist Seth Garceu died March 4th. Hapgood says it’s something that strikes at the heart of the soldier’s hometown.
He says, “It hits everybody hard. Especially when you’re talking about a town like West Burlington. That’s not a 30-thousand person town, you know, people really know each other.” The 224th Engineering Battalion has units located in Fairfield, Burlington, Ottumwa, Mount Pleasant and Keokuk.