PFC Buddy McLain—November 2011 Shipment Honoree
Maine soldier dies in AfghanistanThe Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Maine — For the third time in November, a Mainer has died while on duty in Afghanistan, officials said Nov. 30.
Army Pfc. Buddy McLain, 24, of Mexico, was killed by enemy fire Nov. 29, according to the governor’s office. McLain was a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
McLain’s wife and son live in Peru, and his parents live in Mexico, said David Farmer, spokesman for Gov. John Baldacci.
“Private McLain died serving his country. He has earned the lasting gratitude of his state and nation. We will honor him for the hero that he is,” Baldacci said in a statement. “During this tragic time, we all should keep his family and friends in our prayers.”
One of three brothers, McLain graduated from Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, school officials said.
When McLain entered high school, he didn’t like to read, said Bob Fulton, a special education teacher at Mountain Valley. By the time he graduated in 2006, McLain was a good student who was proud of his reading abilities and liked to read out loud in class, Fulton said.
After McLain joined the Army, he would visit the high school in uniform, carry himself with confidence and look people in the eye, Fulton said.
“It seemed like all of the sudden the light went on,” Fulton said.
Two other Mainers died in Afghanistan this month. Another soldier from the 101st, Cpl. Andrew Hutchins, 20, of New Portland, died on Nov. 8 in Khost Province. Marine 1st Lt. James R. Zimmerman, whose parents live in Smyrna Mills, was killed Nov. 2 in Helmand province.
Remains of 6 killed by Afghan policeman come homeBy Anne Gearan, The Associated Press
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. — Several of President Obama’s top national security advisers stood on a silent, windy tarmac late Dec. 1 to watch as the bodies of six soldiers killed by a rogue Afghan policeman returned to U.S. soil.
The six were killed in Afghanistan Nov. 29 when the border policeman turned his gun on his American trainers as the group headed to shooting practice. The gunman was killed in the shootout in Nangarhar province near the Pakistan border.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the officer had enlisted as a sleeper agent to have an opportunity to kill foreigners.
The only sound during the “dignified transfer” was of the wind blowing through the 747 jet engines as the flag-topped caskets, called transfer cases, were lowered to the ground. Teams of white-gloved pallbearers carried each casket to a waiting truck. Fathers, mothers, wives and other family members of five of the soldiers traveled to Dover for Wednesday’s return.
The dead are Sgt. Barry E. Jarvis of Tell City, Ind.; Pfc. Jacob A. Gassen of Beaver Dam, Wis.; Pfc. Buddy W. McLain of Mexico, Maine; Spc. Matthew W. Ramsey of Quartz Hill, Calif.; Pfc. Austin G. Staggs of Senoia, Ga., and Staff Sgt. Curtis A. Oakes of Athens, Ohio.
Marine Gen. James Cartwright, who is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, led a delegation of U.S. officials to pay respects. The unusually large group that flew from Washington included National Security Adviser Tom Donilon and several senior National Security Council advisers. Defense Undersecretary Michele Flournoy and Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey and several senior Pentagon officers also attended.
The soldiers’ bodies were flown together from Germany to Dover Air Force Base, where they will be formally identified at an Air Force mortuary. Within days the dead will be returned to their families for burial.
Families may choose whether to attend the brief, solemn ceremony beside the plane that brings the bodies home. Those who attend stand separately from the official party paying respects and from the news media.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates ended an 18-year ban on media coverage of the returns last year.
The families of Jarvis, Gassen and McLain allowed media to watch and photograph the transfer of caskets.
The attack was the deadliest of its kind in at least two years. It underscored one of the risks in a U.S.-led program to train enough recruits to turn over the lead for security to Afghan forces by 2014.
Attacks on NATO troops by Afghan policemen or soldiers, although still rare, have increased as the coalition has accelerated the program. Other problems with the rapidly growing security forces include drug use, widespread illiteracy and high rates of attrition.
This is the deadliest year of the 9-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, with more than 450 U.S. troops killed. More than 1,300 U.S. forces have died there since the war began in 2001, a majority of them in the past two years as fighting has intensified and Obama ordered more than 30,000 reinforcements.
The U.S. now has about 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, a record. Obama plans to begin withdrawing some forces in July, on the way to an eventual transfer of security control to the Afghan forces now being recruited and trained under U.S. and NATO supervision.
Wife: Pvt. has misgivings about arming AfghansThe Associated Press
PERU, Maine — The wife of a Maine soldier killed by an Afghan police officer Nov. 29 said her husband had misgivings about training and arming Afghans.
Chelsea McLain of Peru said Pfc. Buddy McLain expressed his concern a week before his death. She said he told her he was going on a dangerous mission. She told The Sun Journal of Lewiston: “He didn’t think it was right to train these people and give them guns.”
Buddy McLain, a cavalry scout with the 101st Airborne Division, deployed from Fort Campbell, Ky., on Aug. 24, which was his son Owen’s first birthday.
He was one of six soldiers killed when the border police officer turned his gun on his trainers. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the officer had enlisted as a sleeper agent.