5th Guardsman dies in Iraq
Roadside bomb kills Norwich grad 1st Lt. Mark Dooley
By Adam Silverman
COLCHESTER -- A Vermont Army National Guard soldier and Wilmington police officer, described as a dedicated young man with a promising future in the military and law enforcement, was killed Monday by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Mark Dooley, a 27-year-old first lieutenant, was investigating reports of suspicious activity in Ramadi with about 30 other soldiers when the bomb detonated. Although Dooley was wearing sophisticated body armor and riding in an armored vehicle, the blast killed him instantly, Vermont Guard commander Maj. Gen. Martha Rainville said Tuesday.
"It’s a loss of a friend and a fellow soldier, and it’s a loss of a talented individual," Rainville said during a news conference at Camp Johnson in Colchester. "He will be deeply missed."
The explosion killed two other U.S. service members from units outside Vermont, Rainville said. The bomb blast occurred at about 7 p.m. in Iraq, or 11 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
Dooley's parents, Peter and Marion Dooley, were notified of their son's death at about 11:30 p.m. Monday at their home in Wallkill, N.Y., where Dooley grew up, Rainville said. Through the Guard, the family declined to comment.
The Wilmington Police Department hired Dooley as a patrol officer in mid-November, just two months before his Guard unit -- the 3rd Battalion of the 172nd Mountain Infantry Regiment -- left Vermont. He immediately impressed his co-workers and members of his new community, Chief Joseph Szarejko said.
"He thought he could make a difference, and I'm sure he would have," Szarejko said in a phone interview, emotion apparent in his voice. "You don't meet many people like Mark Dooley in a lifetime. I was looking forward to him coming back."
The department's officers wrapped black bands around their badges.
Dooley became the 19th serviceman with Vermont ties to be killed in combat in Iraq since the war began in March 2003. The 20th soldier, Vermont Army National Guard Sgt. William Normandy, died of natural causes in Kuwait.
Dooley is the fifth member of the Vermont National Guard and the second from Task Force Saber to be killed in combat. Saber, whose 375 members left Vermont in January for training and arrived in Iraq in July, lost Master Sgt. Chris Chapin, 39, of Proctor to a sniper's bullet Aug. 23 in a Ramadi suburb.
The yearlong mission was Dooley's first deployment. The young officer had "super things to come" in the Guard, chief of staff Col. Jonathan Farnham said.
"A bright future, no doubt," he said.
About 1,200 Vermont National Guard soldiers are stationed in countries throughout the Middle East, including Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan. Gov. Jim Douglas said that with so many Vermonters in war zones, there is a chance more soldiers could die.
"It's a dangerous mission," he said. "We all hope and pray that each of these casualties will be the last, but it's impossible to know for sure."
Vermont's soldiers are stationed in Ramadi, a city west of Baghdad. Dooley was among a group of soldiers dispatched Monday to investigate reports of suspicious activity, Rainville said. The soldiers, including some from Vermont and others from outside the state, loaded into Humvees and set out.
The roadside bomb, which the military calls an "improvised explosive device," tore through Dooley's vehicle, Rainville said. The size of the blast indicates insurgents are growing more advanced in their attacks on U.S. forces, the general said.
"We cannot underestimate the financial backing and the training that some of the foreign fighters are bringing in," Rainville said. "At the same time, we are thinking ahead and trying to outfox them."
Still, the general said, nothing can guarantee a service member's safety.
"There's no perfect protection," she said. "Given time, you can find a weakness."
The bombing remained under investigation Tuesday, Rainville said, and the military was working to "track down the source and go after those responsible."
Combat-stress counselors were called in to help other soldiers in Dooley's unit, Rainville said.
'Would have been ...'
Dooley graduated from Wallkill Senior High School in 1997 and went on to Norwich University in Northfield, where he was a member of the Army ROTC. He was active with the Vermont Guard since 2000, Rainville said.
Dooley graduated from Norwich in 2002 with degrees in political science and history, according to the university.
He was "very, very active" during his two months on the Wilmington police force, which served a town of about 2,400 residents and many tourists and visitors, Szarejko said.
"He got along well with people," the chief said. "He was well-liked and would have made a huge difference in this town. He would have been a great role model for the kids."
After joining the Wilmington force, Dooley began to stop by Twin Valley High School to introduce himself to students, principal Frank Spencer said Tuesday.
"It was very impressive that he did that on his own," Spencer said. "He obviously wasn't in the department here a very long time, but while he was here, he certainly was a positive presence in the school. He had started to make some connections with the students."
Free Press Staff Writer Victoria Welch contributed to this report. Contact Adam Silverman at 660-1854 or email@example.com
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