Vermont Officer Killed In Iraq
WILMINGTON — A member of this town's police department serving with the Vermont National Guard was killed in Iraq Monday when a bomb hit his armored Humvee.
Lt. Mark H. Dooley was part of a patrol sent out to investigate suspicious activity when he was killed instantly by the improvised explosive device in the city of Ramadi, according to the Guard. Two other U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack.
Dooley, 27, of Wilmington was a member of the small ski town's police department for three months before his unit, the 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Mountain Infantry Regiment, was called to active duty last January. He arrived in Iraq in July.
Police Chief Joe Szarejko said Dooley was a dedicated officer who liked to talk with local teenagers at sports games and took pride in his responsibility to enforce the law. He said he was eager to "serve his country."
Dozens of flags along the town's Main Street — erected more than two years ago at the start of the Iraq war — were lowered to half-staff Tuesday.
"He was one in a million," Szarejko said. "He was the kind of man that you could talk to for 20 minutes and feel like you've known him your whole life."
Town Manager Sonia Alexander said Dooley's death has "devastated" the small four-member police department, especially one officer who was his roommate when he lived in town.
At least two members of the department visited Dooley's parents, Peter and Mary Dooley, in Wallkill, N.Y., on Tuesday.
"He was a really special person, an extremely likable man," Alexander said. "This has been a shock to many of us."
His death brings to 17 the number of American military service members with ties to Vermont who have died in Iraq since the war began. An 18th Vermonter died of natural causes in Kuwait while training to go to Iraq.
And Dooley was the second member of his unit, the 400-member Task Force Saber which arrived in Iraq in July, killed in Iraq. Sgt. 1st Class Chris Chapin, 39, of Proctor was killed by a sniper Aug. 23, also in Ramadi.
Task Force Saber is a part of the 2nd Brigade Combat team of the 28th Division led by the Pennsylvania National Guard. Since the brigade arrived in Iraq in July 11 soldiers have been killed, Guard officials said.
Even though he was in the vehicle and wearing all his protective gear, he was killed instantly by the improvised explosive device in Ramadi at about 11 a.m. (EDT) Monday, said Vermont Guard commander Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville.
"He was very well respected by his peers and his commanders," said Rainville. "He will be deeply missed."
Before joining Wilmington Police, Dooley earned a degree in political science and history at Norwich University in May 2002. He served as a deputy with the Windham County Sheriff's Department between 2002 and 2003. At the time he was a Dummerston resident.
He had many friends among the other deputies in the department during the two years he worked the second shift patrolling Windham County towns, according to a dispatcher who asked not to be named.
"He was a great guy," the dispatcher said. "If you called to him and asked him to do something, the first thing he would say is, 'Yes, ma'am.'"
The U.S. military said Tuesday that four U.S. soldiers died Monday in two roadside bombings near Ramadi and a fifth died in a blast north of Baghdad, pushing the toll of American forces killed in Iraq past 1,900.
Ramadi is a volatile city 70 miles west of Baghdad. It has been the scene of intense but sporadic fighting since the insurgency gained strength and began its offensive against U.S. forces in the summer of 2003.
Rainville and chief of staff Col. Jonathan Farnham said insurgents fighting U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq were developing more powerful weapons.
"The up-armored Humvees have protected a lot of soldiers," Rainville said. The death of Dooley and the others "indicates the strength of the explosive used."
She said the Iraqi insurgents were adapting their tactics and increasing the lethality of their weapons to counter U.S. advantages, Rainville said.
"We cannot underestimate the enemy," Rainville said. "As they try tactics and methods they see what works and what doesn't work."
She said the U.S. military was doing the same thing.
"There is not a perfect protection for a soldier or an airman," Rainville said. "Given time (the insurgents) will find a weakness."
Rainville and Farnham, Dooley's commander in Vermont, appeared grim-faced at the Tuesday afternoon news conference.
"We all have a job to do," Rainville said. "This is a piece of that job that we take very seriously."
They both said Dooley, who is survived by his parents and a brother, had a bright future in the National Guard.
Gov. James Douglas said Tuesday in a statement that he had contacted Dooley's family and "expressed our most sincere condolences."
Rep. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., also expressed his sadness.
"My thoughts are with his family at this difficult time and I join all Vermonters in offering my deepest condolences for their loss," Sanders said.
As of Tuesday, 1,904 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,483 died from hostile action, according to the military. The figures include five military civilians.
Associated Press reporter Wilson Ring contributed to this report.
R.I.P. Lt. Mark H. Dooley