FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Sept. 30, 2011) — Three soldiers from Fort Leonard Wood were killed Wednesday by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.
All three, 1st Lt. Ivan Lechowich, 27, of Valrico, Fla., Spc. Steven Gutowski, 24, of Plymouth, Mass, and Pfc. David Drake, 21, of Lumberton, Texas, were assigned to the 515th Engineer Company, which is part of Fort Leonard Wood’s 5th Engineer Battalion, a subordinate unit of the 4th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.
Little information about the incident or the soldiers was immediately available from official military sources, except that the three died “when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device while conducting route clearance.” Local media are reporting that a fourth soldier was seriously injured in the same attack.
Non-fatal injuries are not routinely reported by the Department of Defense and are publicized only if family members choose to release that information.
Local media in Florida are reporting that Lechowich became a father just last week and saw his child via Skype. More information on Lechowich is available via the online Patch.com news site at this link.
Lechowich was a 2007 history graduate of the University of Florida and had played in his high school band, according to the St. Petersburg Times at this link.
He originally entered the Army as an enlisted soldier in 2009 and was commissioned last year through officer candidate school.
Media in the Boston area are reporting that Gutowski had recently returned to Afghanistan after attending his sister’s wedding last month, with more information available at this link.
Local affiliates of Patch.com in the Boston area are reporting that Gutowski had been in Afghanistan since February, had two previous close calls with IED explosions, and was considering becoming a police officer after leaving the military with details at this link.
The youngest and most junior in rank of the three soldiers had always wanted to be a soldier, according to family friends quoted in his hometown newspaper in Texas. David Drake’s brother, William Drake, is also in the Army but was on leave in Texas at the time he learned of his brother’s death, according to local media reports in the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper, at this link and this link. Family members provided media with photos of David Drake at the age of six wearing a military uniform, and said his goal had always been to be a soldier. KFDM-TV 6 reported at this link that Drake graduated from high schoool in 2008, graduated from a Texas fire academy, consdered joining a local fire department, but enlisted in the Army in January of this year. He had been in Afghanistan only three months when his Humvee was blown up by the IED.
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