Some months after the Americans took over the sprawling Balad Air Base, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, someone posted an enigmatic sign on the main gate asking: "Is Today the Day?" Soldiers at the base, which the U.S. military renamed Logistics Support Area Anaconda, or Camp Anaconda, take turns speculating about what the sign means. In the tense months leading up to today's planned national elections in Iraq, the population at the base has swollen to more than 22,000 soldiers and civilian contractors. Some Camp Anaconda residents--installed in relative comfort inside the 15-square-mile compound that now features four dining halls, two swimming pools, a first-run movie theater and a Burger King franchise--have concluded that the sign is a military safety message: "Stay Alert!"
For the 90 California National Guard soldiers who make up Alpha Company, a Petaluma-based arm of the 579th Engineer Battalion of Santa Rosa, and regularly venture outside the base to patrol the treacherous canal-veined perimeter, the sign carries a more ominous meaning. The soldiers are part of one of the most star-crossed National Guard units in Iraq. Since arriving at Anaconda last March, one out of five in Alpha Company has been killed or wounded. Three of the nine California National Guardsmen killed in Iraq by the end of 2004 were from Alpha Company.
"A lot of the guys hate the sign," says Alpha Company Sgt. Timothy "T.J." McClurg, a 27-year-old welder from Chico sent home to recover after shrapnel from a roadside bomb ripped into his foot on Nov. 11. "They think it means today is the day we get hit, or today is the day we die."
For Patrick Ryan McCaffrey, a 34-year-old father of two from the Bay Area suburb of Tracy, the day was June 22, 2004. McCaffrey, a rising auto-body shop manager in Palo Alto, signed up for the National Guard during the wave of patriotism that swept the country after Sept. 11, 2001. "Can you believe what's happening?" McCaffrey asked Marlene Cather, one of his co-workers at Akins Collision Repair. "We need to do something."
Exactly one month after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, McCaffrey joined a National Guard unit with a mission statement that emphasizes its engineering support role to "provide mobility, counter-mobility and survivability support to a combat arms brigade" as well as "providing manpower and engineering expertise" during stateside crises. In the troubling days after Sept. 11, National Guard units across the land reported hundreds of similar enlistments. But like many of the other 50,000-plus National Guard soldiers now serving alongside about 20,000 Army Reserve troops in Iraq, McCaffrey didn't foresee that he would one day find himself in deadly combat on the other side of the world. McCaffrey's unit had not been in overseas combat since World War II.
In the half century before Iraq, the engineers had been deployed on missions ranging from forest fires to the 1965 Watts riots. Their duties included temporary assignments to search for weapons in state prisons, remove snow from blocked mountain passes and, in May 1993, to bury a gray whale that had washed up on the beach near Eureka. McCaffrey told friends when he enlisted that he expected to be assigned to homeland security duties, such as guarding the Golden Gate Bridge or Shasta Dam.
"Patrick thought by joining the engineers he would be doing something constructive to fight terrorism on the West Coast," recalls his father, Bob McCaffrey.
But as the U.S. campaign in Iraq bogged down in the summer of 2003, the Pentagon turned to its legions of "citizen soldiers," serving mostly weekend duty in crumbling state armories, and ordered them to relieve exhausted regular Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Authorized by a presidential emergency order issued only two days after the Sept. 11 attacks, the historic deployment took place with relatively little public notice or fanfare. It wasn't until later, when the Guard and reserve troops began dying and getting injured in Iraq, that presidential candidate John Kerry and others began describing their overseas service as a "backdoor draft." Today more than 40% of the 150,000 U.S. soldiers in Iraq are either National Guardsmen or reserves. By the end of the spring, that percentage is expected to rise to more than 50%.
Despite McCaffrey's expectations as a National Guard engineer, his marching orders were quite different. Once the U.S. moved into Iraq, he was converted into an infantryman and sent into combat, one of more than 5,000 California National Guard soldiers mustered for service in the war. As the Pentagon scrambled to adjust to long-term military occupation, similarly abrupt job reclassifications became widespread. After years of developing caste pride as engineers, their transformation into foot soldiers was unsettling.
"It's like telling the Lakers that they are not going to play basketball but are now going to be Ping-Pong champs," says retired Army Col. David H. Hackworth, a critic of the current National Guard policy.
It also meant that some of the soldiers got less training than the regular Army infantry they were replacing. Army infantrymen receive 14 weeks of training in their specialty. A National Guard engineer normally undergoes eight weeks of basic infantry training and six weeks in engineering school, where they learn how to plant mines, detonate explosives and lay concertina wire, among other skills.
McCaffrey's company was called to active duty on Jan. 17, 2004, after a month of refresher training in Ft. Lewis, Wash., followed by another month of more Iraq-specific maneuvers at Ft. Irwin, Calif. Problems occurred at both training camps. The Ft. Lewis routine was disrupted by the arrest of a Washington National Guardsman, a member of the same 81st Brigade as the Californians, for attempting to sell military secrets to undercover federal agents posing as members of Al Qaeda. The Ft. Irwin training came to an unpleasant conclusion after someone stole the 9-millimeter handguns of a California battalion commander and his first sergeant, setting off a security crisis.
After the inauspicious start, the 579th Alpha Company, under the command of Capt. William C. Turner, a computer chip designer from Mountain View, arrived in Iraq in early April 2004. McCaffrey was initially gung-ho about the assignment. He regularly wrote to his family about the children he met in the villages and often asked for hard candy or soccer balls to distribute to the Iraqi kids. But after only a month of daily patrols along the dangerous periphery of the base, McCaffrey confided to family and friends that he had become disillusioned with the American war effort, particularly after the revelations of prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib. In a May 16 e-mail to his mother, Nadia McCaffrey, he described how the abuse scandal had inflamed anti-American sentiment among Iraqis.
McCaffrey also was troubled by the behavior of the Iraqi national guard units, then called the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, that he and his fellow soldiers had been assigned to train. The line between friend and foe had become increasingly blurred in a country where brown-and-tan camouflage Iraqi uniforms are for sale in many markets. On April 20, McCaffrey and other members of the 2nd platoon, 2nd squad--nicknamed "Double-Deuce"--were called out in the middle of the night to find the source of a rocket that had hit inside the base. McCaffrey's unit stopped two Iraqis on a motorcycle, one of whom McCaffrey recognized as a man he had been training earlier in the day at Camp Anaconda.
The two Iraqis were "swiped" for explosives and tested positive for TNT and another explosive known as RDX. Suspected of participating in the rocket attack, both were arrested as insurgents. When McCaffrey called home the day after the arrests, he told his father how distressed he was about the incident.
"That episode cut Patrick and all the soldiers right to the quick," says his father, a San Jose building contractor. "It made them all realize that things were not going the way they were supposed to be going. It also made him mad as hell because now they not only had to look in front of them, but they had to look behind as well."
The incident now seems a precursor of what happened later at the military base in Mosul. On Dec. 21, a suicide bomber wearing an Iraqi national guard uniform blew himself up in a crowded mess tent, killing 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers. Four of the dead were National Guardsmen from Maine and Virginia. For McCaffrey, the arrest of the two Iraqis also foreshadowed a devastating reality that would come two months later, on a narrow asphalt road surrounded by cotton fields outside Camp Anaconda.
THE GUARD GOES TO WAR
While the use of guard units in combat theaters has a long history in the U.S., they were almost always asked to play a supporting role. In addition, much of its combat service history faded from memory during the last 50 years as the National Guard was rarely called upon to fight. In the end, only 7,000 National Guard troops--only a handful from California--served among the 2.6 million military men and women who went to Vietnam. The last time large numbers of guardsmen were sent into long-term combat was during the Korean War between 1950 and 1953, when, for example, the California National Guard's 40th Infantry Division, based in Los Alamitos, participated in many bloody battles, including those at Chorwon, Heartbreak Ridge and Sandbag Castle. Three of its soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
But President Lyndon B. Johnson rejected advice to send the reserve components to Vietnam, and his reasons were political. The president felt that calling up the reserves would endanger his ambitious Great Society domestic agenda. To many military leaders, Johnson's decision not to call up the reserves was the greatest mistake of that war. The exclusion demoralized National Guard units and left the Guard with a reputation as an alternative for those hoping to avoid dangerous duty. As the 2004 presidential election demonstrated, resentment still runs deep over the Guard-as-safe-haven issue.
After Vietnam, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Creighton Abrams Jr. vowed that the reserves would play an active role in all future conflicts. Since then, virtually all American military action has included the National Guard.
Sending the Guard into extended combat is a different story. Currently, National Guard soldiers deployed in Iraq account for nearly one-third of the U.S. ground forces. By the end of 2004, 154 National Guard soldiers had been killed and more than 1,000 wounded in the conflict. The first days of 2005 were even bloodier. Ten National Guardsmen were killed during the first week of this year.
Johnson, the visceral Texas politician, knew by intuition what Bush administration officials are learning today: In an unpopular war, National Guard troops and reserve soldiers represent a potential political land mine. They tend to be older, and are more likely married with children. They're also much more entrenched in their civilian communities than the regular military. In Iraq, for example, the average age of U.S. Marines killed in action is 21; the average age of guardsmen lost in combat is 10 years older.
Richard H. Kohn, history professor and chair of the Curriculum in Peace, War and Defense at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, argues that the Iraq deployment violates the "citizen soldier" concept at the heart of the National Guard. "By transforming them into a very different armed force, you are robbing these people of a substantial part of their civilian lives, warping their careers and changing the kinds of people who can afford to be part-time soldiers," Kohn says. He adds that because many guardsmen are civilian police, fire and emergency medical workers, the deployment "steals people from very important civilian functions" while depriving state governors of crucial emergency forces.
As the military occupation of Iraq approaches its third year, morale and recruitment issues have begun to surface. A 2004 battlefield survey conducted in Iraq for the Secretary of the Army showed that morale among the National Guard soldiers was "markedly lower" than that of active-duty soldiers. At the heart of the complaints, the survey results said, is the feeling among guardsmen that they are "treated like second-class citizens in the Army." More recently in New Mexico, where the California National Guard's 184th Infantry Regiment was preparing to be deployed to Iraq, soldiers complained to a Los Angeles Times reporter about poor training and inadequate equipment. "We are going to pay for this in blood," one said.
In a celebrated incident on Dec. 8 in Kuwait, Tennessee National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson surprised Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld during an impromptu press conference, asking why Guard units were being sent into Iraq with inadequate armor on their vehicles. Cheered by his fellow soldiers, Wilson claimed that his unit was forced to rummage through local landfills for "rusted scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass . . . to put on our vehicles to take into combat."
"I call it the 'question heard 'round the world,' " says military historian Col. Mike Doubler, a Tennessee native who served 14 years in the Army and nine years in the Guard. "There is a growing perception--among guardsmen and reservists--that there are two armies in Iraq."
It's likely no coincidence that on Dec. 17, National Guard Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum announced that, because of declining recruitment during the Iraq war, the service now will offer inducements to make reenlistment more attractive. Among the incentives: tripling retention bonuses from $5,000 to $15,000. Blum also announced that the number of Guard recruiters would be increased nationally from 2,700 to 4,100.
Experts predict that the first real test of the war's impact on the National Guard will come this spring, when soldiers returning from Iraq have their first opportunity to quit. "The fact is," says Kohn, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill professor, "we have worn these people out [and] taken advantage of their patriotism and service. Many of them are going to quit as soon as they get a chance."
A SUNNYVALE CHILDHOOD
At Camp Anaconda, Patrick McCaffrey battled his own morale problems as well as those of his overworked unit. He had excellent people skills developed during a civilian career of dealing with emotional car owners. Because of his talent for calming customers, McCaffrey's desk was the closest to the front door at Akins Collision.
McCaffrey practiced a kind of holistic collision repair, caring for the client as well as the car. "People would come in a panic mood after an accident, hurting and wanting their cars fixed," says colleague Marline Cather. "Patrick would say, 'You know, we can fix your car quickly, but it takes longer to fix people.' "
McCaffrey grew up on the San Francisco Peninsula in Sunnyvale in Santa Clara County. For most of his childhood it was a relatively sleepy Bay Area suburb and agricultural processing center. His parents, Bob and Nadia, met in Paris in 1966. Bob was a U.S. Army cryptographer and Nadia, a French citizen, was a cafe waitress. The couple married at Nadia's family farm in Auvergne in 1968 and moved to California, where Bob landed a construction job.
The young McCaffreys rented a two-bedroom wood-frame duplex in a working-class neighborhood known to longtime residents as "the lowlands." Compared to the mansions in the coastal hills, the homes there are modest. After his son was born on May 26, 1970, Bob McCaffrey built him a sandbox and, a few years later, installed an aboveground pool in the backyard. "It was a paradise for kids," recalls Nadia McCaffrey. "Our house was the center of the neighborhood."
But McCaffrey's happy childhood took a turn after Bob and Nadia separated when their son was 11. Nadia took a job as a receptionist at a resort hotel on the island of Moorea in French Polynesia. Patrick spent the school years with his father in Sunnyvale and summers with his mother on the island. The separation was hard on the boy. He developed anorexia during his early teens and became so thin that his parents feared he might die. Nadia recalls him arriving one summer at the Moorea airport.
"When I saw him come off the plane I just burst into tears," she says. "He was 15 years old and he weighed less than 80 pounds."
Alarmed, Nadia returned to Sunnyvale. Patrick began gaining weight, and later enrolled in a YMCA weight-lifting program. By his senior year at Homestead High School, McCaffrey was big and strong enough to play cornerback on the football team. According to parents and friends, though, he spent the rest of his life trying to overcome a self-image as the proverbial weakling at the beach, and some say that may have played a role in his decision to join the National Guard.
McCaffrey's other passions in high school were cars and the Washington Redskins. He developed his Redskins devotion because he admired powerful Washington running back John Riggins, who starred for the team in the 1970s and '80s. He was hooked after watching Riggins break free for a 43-yard winning touchdown over the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XVII. As an adult, McCaffrey turned the den in his Tracy home into a Redskins shrine. In the will he prepared before leaving for Iraq, McCaffrey asked to be buried with a Redskins pennant and beneath a gravestone inscribed "Redskins Forever."
High school was followed by a brief stint at a local junior college and an entry-level job as a detailer at Akins Collision Repair, where he impressed the owners with his management potential. He continued his regular workouts at Gold's Gym until his body grew solid and powerfully packed on his 5-foot-11-inch frame. An early marriage ended in divorce, but it produced his first child, Patrick Jr., now 10, who lives with his mother in Mountain View.
In 1999, on a trip with friends in Rosarito, Baja California, McCaffrey met Sylvia Aguilar, a Mexican citizen who grew up and attended high school in Oceanside. McCaffrey was captivated after spending a romantic evening on the beach holding hands and talking. Aguilar liked that McCaffrey talked so lovingly and openly about his son, and the pain he felt when he was separated from him. Later, Aguilar, now 27, was charmed when McCaffrey drove from Palo Alto to Oceanside to meet her family.
Since his career was thriving, he bought a ranch-style home in Tracy, a San Joaquin Valley exurb that caters to first-time homeowners. The couple married in 2000, and daughter Janessa, now 3, was born two months before the Sept. 11 attacks. Many were puzzled that McCaffrey risked it all by joining the National Guard.
At work, Akins owner Sharon Rupp was one of the most surprised. "We had plans to expand our business and [McCaffrey] was key," Rupp says. She planned to name him general manager of his own shop. McCaffrey did not consult his father, with whom he discussed most important things in his life. "If he had asked me I would have advised him against it," Bob McCaffrey says. Nadia McCaffrey, who now operates a nonprofit grief counseling program and has become a leader in the Northern California antiwar movement, has been a lifelong pacifist and opposed her son's enlistment from the beginning. She says, though, that she was powerless to stop it. "He was like a lion in a cage," she recalls of her son's reaction to watching the terrorist attacks on television. "He just wanted to do something."
Longtime friend Romulo Rimando says McCaffrey "told me that he wanted to set an example for his son." When McCaffrey left for Iraq, he put pictures of Sylvia, Patrick Jr. and Janessa in a pendant and wore it constantly around his neck.
The management skills McCaffrey developed in the auto-body shop soon proved useful in Iraq. At Ft. Irwin and later in Iraq, McCaffrey quickly emerged as a leader, receiving a battlefield promotion to corporal only a few days after arriving at Camp Anaconda and a recommendation for promotion to sergeant not long after. When other soldiers were feeling down, McCaffrey buoyed them.
"He had this way of coming up and rubbing my shoulders when I would get stressed out," says Spc. Chris Murphy, a 22-year-old Lake County rock musician who quickly bonded with the older McCaffrey during training at Ft. Irwin. "He'd say, 'Hey man, relax. Calm down.' " McCaffrey was one of the strongest men in Alpha Company and always one of the first to volunteer for extra duties. If soldiers had problems with an officer, McCaffrey often intervened on their behalf.
After the incident in April, when McCaffrey learned that his Iraqi trainee was among those suspected of attacking the base, he went to his superiors. "Patrick told them they needed to change the way they operated with these people because they couldn't be trusted," Bob McCaffrey recalls from one of his frequent phone conversations with his son. "But nothing happened. He was very disillusioned with the command structure."
Then there was the matter of the heavy workload. The long missions outside the razor wire in the mounting heat of summer took a toll. McCaffrey, trained as a combat lifesaver, felt that the officers were working the men too hard. The soldiers complained that the 579th, along with the two other California and Washington State National Guard companies assigned to patrol the base perimeter, represented less than 3% of the soldiers at Camp Anaconda but bore the brunt of the danger while other regular military units seemed to enjoy relative safety inside the base.
McCaffrey called his wife on June 21, the eve of an early-morning mission to search for weapons outside the base. "Usually when he called he would reassure me," Sylvia says. "But this time he said, 'Babe, I'm just so tired. They don't let us sleep at night. I just wanted to call and say I love you.' "
By June 2004, nerves were on edge at Camp Anaconda. Temperatures during the day approached 125 degrees. Inside the circus-style tents where the soldiers slept, the thermometer seldom fell below 105 degrees. Electricity to run the few air conditioners was erratic. Some took turns sleeping in the generator-powered, air-conditioned computer rooms. On June 16, insurgents launched a heavy mortar attack against the base that hit the post exchange, killing three soldiers and wounding 25 others. With typical dark humor, the soldiers began calling the base "Mortaritaville." No one had had a day off in more than two weeks.
McCaffrey's squad received orders late on June 21 to go on patrol before dawn the next morning. To the weary troops, the squad's nickname of "Double-Deuce" was starting to sound like a bad poker hand. The commander woke them at 3 a.m. By 5, the men were "outside the wire," trudging through the high brush and farmers' crops, using metal detectors to hunt for weapons caches and other signs of insurgent activities.
The squad regrouped at 10:30, and by then several were showing signs of heat exhaustion. One of the first to fall out was Sgt. Dennis Sarla. McCaffrey administered a saline IV to the sergeant, who then was transported back to base. McCaffrey, wearing a bandana to keep the sweat from dripping into his eyes, took over carrying Sarla's heavy radio, an older model that weighed nearly 75 pounds. No one was surprised that he took the radio in addition to his M-16, grenades and body armor. "McCaffrey always took care of that little bit of slack for other people," says best pal T.J. McClurg. He wanted to carry his team like Riggins had carried the Redskins.
When another soldier fell out, he was replaced by Spc. Bruce Himelright, a 27-year-old native Texan who had been manning the .50-caliber machine gun on one of the transport vehicles parked a mile or so away. After a 20-minute break, the officer leading the patrol, 2nd Lt. Andre Tyson, huddled with the troops. Through a translator, several members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps complained that the patrol was wasting its time looking for weapons in the farmlands. Tyson, a 34-year-old Costco manager from Riverside who was fresh out of officer candidate school when sent to Iraq, decided to split the patrol into two squads and follow a roughly parallel course through the brush and overgrown fields.
McCaffrey, who had the only radio, went with the lieutenant. He was joined by Himelright, as well as the Iraqi translator and three Iraqi trainees. McClurg, who was manning one of the Humvees on higher ground closer to the base, stayed in touch with McCaffrey over the radio. McClurg's radio handle was "2-2 Bravo." McCaffrey's was "2-2 Dismount." At one point McCaffrey called to report that his group was near an abandoned Iraqi military police checkpoint near Bakr Village. Before the war, the village was off-base housing for Iraqi air force officers. Now the 400 or so middle-class houses were mostly occupied by squatters.
What happened next is still under investigation by the Department of Army, Criminal Investigation Division. "To protect the integrity of the investigation we won't be able to provide you any details at this time," says Criminal Investigation spokesman Chris Grey, a Pentagon civilian. However, interviews in Iraq and in the U.S. with several Alpha Company soldiers, including Capt. Turner, the company commander and Mountain View computer chip designer, produced the following reconstruction of events:
Walking on the narrow asphalt road near Bakr Village, Tyson and McCaffrey stopped to confer and use the radio. On the village side of the road was a crumbling mud wall, about 5 feet tall. On the other side was a deep, dry irrigation canal. Himelright, trailing behind, knelt on the road with his rifle in ready position facing the village. As he turned slightly to see what Tyson and McCaffrey were doing, he noticed that two of the Iraqi trainees, looking nervous, had detached themselves 10 yards away from the group, leaving the Americans and the Iraqi translator alone on the road.
Himelright sensed something was wrong, but before he could react he heard a burst of gunfire and felt himself hit in the left hip. According to Capt. Turner, at least one of the Iraqi trainees opened fire on the three Americans from close range. The bullets struck Tyson several times in the neck and head and hit McCaffrey in the legs and unprotected areas of his upper body.
Wounded, Himelright ended up on his back at the bottom of the dry canal. Looking up into the bright sun, he saw the unidentifiable silhouette of a man standing on the rim of the road. The man leveled his gun at Himelright and fired another burst at the prostrate American. Three AK-47 armor-piercing bullets lodged in Himelright's Kevlar vest. Another round hit his ammunition magazine. Himelright was knocked unconscious by the bullets, but not wounded again. When he revived, adrenaline pumping, he was able to climb the canal wall. He saw the bodies of Tyson and McCaffrey. The radio was broken, so Himelright fired several rounds from his M-16 into the air to call for help.
"I started worrying and calling out on the radio: '2-2 Dismount this is 2-2 Bravo. 2-2 Dismount this is 2-2 Bravo,' but there was no answer," says McClurg, who was sitting atop his Humvee a half-mile away. He became more concerned when he saw military vehicles, including a medic Humvee, headed toward the Bakr Village road. Someone on the radio blurted out that they had found one dead and two wounded. At the time, they apparently thought that one of the downed men was still alive. McClurg listened with dread for the battle roster numbers of the fallen soldiers. "Right off the bat I heard McCaffrey's number," he recalls.
The three Iraqi soldiers who were with the Americans fled the scene. Two of them eventually wandered back into the American base, but the third, reportedly a skilled Russian-trained sniper who served in the Iraqi army, has not been found despite an ongoing search by American forces. It's still not known if other attackers participated in the ambush, perhaps from behind the wall where Tyson and McCaffrey stopped. One villager claims to have seen a blue farm van parked nearby.
So far, military authorities have denied requests for an official report on the incident, including the disposition of the two Iraqi trainees on the patrol who returned to Camp Anaconda. Citing the ongoing investigation, the military also has declined a request from McCaffrey's father and wife for a formal autopsy report.
Chris Murphy, one of McCaffrey's best friends in Alpha Company, wrote an account of the ambush that was picked up by several soldier Internet blogs. Murphy also was on the patrol that day, but went with the other group after Tyson split up the unit. In his account, he recalls coming upon McCaffrey's lifeless body sprawled on the asphalt road. In the distance, near the village, curious Iraqi civilians had begun to gather.
"We were supposed to meet back up where the palm trees were," Murphy says. "I remember McCaffrey saying, 'This is [crazy], man. They're not going to stop pushing us until someone gets hurt or killed. Then maybe they'll let up.' That was the last thing I remember him saying."
McCaffrey is buried in Oceanside, his wife's family home, in a cemetery that looks out over the Pacific Ocean. On his headstone, as he requested, are the words "Redskins Forever."
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
The killed and wounded of Alpha Company
Killed in Action
Sgt. Patrick McCaffrey, 34, Tracy (promoted posthumously)
Sgt. First Class Michael Ottolini, 45, Petaluma
2nd Lt. Andre Tyson, 33, Riverside
Wounded in Action
Sgt. Michael Gilmore, 36, Livermore
Spc. Charles Hayes, 24, San Jacinto
Staff Sgt. Adam Henson, 36, El Centro
Bruce Himelright, 27, Chico
Sgt. Paul Hoffman, 44, Fair Oaks
Sgt. Timothy "T.J." McClurg, 27, Chico
Spc. Anthony Melendez, 29, San Francisco
Staff Sgt. Daniel Nevins, 32, Windsor
Sgt. Frank Papworth, 44, Sonoma
Spc. Harold Parker, 19, Long Beach
Spc. Albert Poindexter, 27, Ukiah
Spc. Jason Rivera, 19, Perris
Spc. Robert Sales, 42, Santa Rosa
Sgt. First Class Norman Valdez, 42, Upper Lake
2nd Lt. Christopher Coles, 26, Maple Valley, Wash.
1st Lt. Matthew Doxey, 28, Seattle, Wash.
Spc. James Huff, 19, Lakewood, Wash.
Rone Tempest is a Times staff writer and longtime foreign correspondent. He was helped on this story by UC Berkeley graduate journalism students Jeff Nachtigal, Melissa Nix and Adam Raney, reporting as part of The Times' ongoing series on the California National Guard, "The Guard Goes to War." Previous stories in the series and other materials can be viewed at www.latimes.com/guardgoes. Staff writers Monte Morin, reporting from Iraq, and Scott Gold, reporting from New Mexico, also contributed to this story.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times