AMaine National Guard unit copes with casualties.
As Maine’s National Guard members in Iraq returned to work Wednesday, soldiers and families at home began grieving for Spc. Christopher Gelineau, who died in an attack in Mosul on Tuesday.

A “casualty assistant” from the Army base at Fort Drum, N.Y., arrived in Maine on Tuesday night. Volunteers from the Maine Army National Guard and an Army chaplain went with the assistant to tell his family of his death.

Meanwhile, families of the soldiers in the 133rd Engineer Battalion stationed in Mosul have continued to call guard headquarters looking for information, said Maj. Peter Rogers, spokesman for the Maine Army National Guard.

People throughout Camp Keyes, the Maine guard’s Augusta headquarters, grieved Wednesday.

“We all knew that this could happen,” Rogers said. “It’s a risk everyone is aware of.”

It still hurts, though.

“We are a big family, and this is a somber place,” Rogers said.

Meanwhile, the battalion is already back at work in Iraq. With 500 soldiers, the group acts as a moving construction company, able to build roads, airfields and buildings. Units originated from armories in Lewiston, Norway, Gardiner, Skowhegan, Portland and Saco.

“They have a mission to do over there,” Rogers said.

Lt. Col. John Jansen, the battalion commander, called Camp Keyes Wednesday morning from Iraq, praising his soldiers’ response to the Tuesday morning attack in which their convoy was hit by homemade explosives and shot at.

“They did everything they were supposed to do,” Jansen told Gen. John W. “Bill” Libby, commander of the Maine guard.

They returned fire and probably saved further casualties, Jansen told Libby.

The father of one soldier hurt in the highway ambush in northern Iraq said that as much as he wants his only son to come home soon, he’ll understand if the Army decides to keep him in Iraq.

“I don’t think they’re going to be bringing him home, I don’t think it’s in question,” said Carl Nickles, 46, the father of Spc. Dwight E. Nickles, 22. “I’d personally like to see him, because that’s my only son.”

Nickles said his son suffered a concussion and a blown eardrum in the attack and was released from the hospital Wednesday.

“He’s more of a man than I am for what he’s got to go through,” he said.

Also injured were Spc. Craig Ardry of Pittsfield and Spc. Sok San Pao, 22, of Portland. Ardry is being flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., with multiple injuries and Pao was treated and returned to his unit, as was Nickles.

A woman who answered the phone at the Gelineau residence Wednesday declined to comment, but a professor at the University of Southern Maine, where the 23-year-old senior was one semester shy of a degree in information and communications technology, called him an outstanding student.

“He was a great student, and he’ll be missed,” Robert Nannay said in a statement.

Gelineau’s wife, Lavinia, is a business student at the university.

Vuthi Pao, sister of Spc. Pao, 22, said when the unit’s chaplain called Tuesday she broke down crying over the phone.

“I was shaking and I was crying uncontrollably and I was just sitting there,” she said. “I didn’t know what to think, and the first thing I thought about was, how am I going to tell my mother?”

Pao said her brother suffered neck injuries in the attack.

Ty Pao said he finds it hard to concentrate on anything other than his brother.

“I go through a whole bunch of emotions,” he said. “My head is ringing. I feel so scared for him every day I can’t focus. I feel so helpless.”

He said he wants to do something to help, so he put a “support the troops” decal on the back of his truck.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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