MICHELE NORRIS, host:
In Iraq, a huge search operation is underway for two U.S. soldiers missing since Friday. The two missing privates, one from Texas, the other from Oregon, are serving with the 101st Airborne Division. A third soldier was killed in the attack. An insurgent umbrella group, the Mujahedeen Shura Council, claimed on a web site that the two soldiers were being held hostage. The Pentagon says it's trying to confirm what happened.
NPR's Wade Goodwyn reports.
WADE GOODWYN reporting:
Planes, helicopters, boats with dive teams and unmanned drones are all being utilized in a massive search for 23-year-old Private First Class Kristian Menchaca from Houston and 25-year-old Private First Class Thomas L. Tucker from Madras, Oregon.
The attack occurred on Friday near Yusufiya, a Sunni-controlled area known as the Triangle of Death. A quick reaction force arrived within minutes, only to find Specialist David Babineau of Springfield, Massachusetts, killed in action. In Texas and in Oregon, the claim that the two soldiers were being held hostage has rocked the families of the two privates. Kay Fristad of the Army National Guard is acting as spokesperson for Thomas Tucker's family in Oregon.
Ms. KAY FRISTAD (Oregon Army National Guard): Our call came in on Friday to the Oregon Guard to state that we needed to pull together a notification team immediately for a potential high-profile media interest case for a soldier that was missing from his duty station.
GOODWYN: Tucker told his family that he wanted to join the Army because he wanted to do something positive. Fristad says his family was on a camping trip Friday when they got the news that Tucker was missing.
Ms. FRISTAD: You know when they think they're starting to bounce back a little bit, then they got the news this morning that there's a potential death. It could be in a hostage situation which kind of dropped them back down to where they had been upon initial notification of his duty status unknown missing scenario. So they're back to not doing quite as well as they thought they would be doing.
GOODWYN: In Texas, Kristian Menchaca's eighteen-year-old wife said through a spokesperson that she was waiting for more information from the Army before she would comment. Christina Menchaca married her husband in September, one month before he was deployed.
At Fort Campbell, the home of the 101st Airborne Division, the news of the possible kidnappings is simply the latest bad news. Air assault is heavily engaged in Iraq and has lost 82 soldiers. Kathy Grambling is the spokesperson for the Screaming Eagles.
Ms. KATHY GRAMBLING (U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division): If one soldier's killed it affects everyone and when there's two missing, it definitely weighs heavily on us. We hate to have this, you know, open-ended uncertainty, but we just have to trust that these soldiers who are missing and those that are looking for them are fully trained in their jobs and, and will do them to the best of their ability.
GOODWYN: Private First Class Kristian Menchaca's wife says he is totally committed to the army and intends to make it his life's career.
Wade Goodwyn, NPR News.
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