Coast Guard Suffers First Combat Death Since Vietnam
U.S. Coast Guard Damage Controlman Third Class Nathan B. Bruckenthal, 24, from Smithtown, N.Y., died from injuries sustained when a small boat exploded as he and six other coalition sailors attempted to board it near the Iraqi Khawr Al Amaya Oil Terminal Saturday.
Injured was Boatswains Mate Third Class Joseph T. Ruggiero, 23, from Revere, Mass., who is recovering in a hospital in Kuwait.
The two men were assigned to Law Enforcement Detachment 403 from Tactical Law Enforcement Team South in Miami, Fla., and were deployed to Coast Guard Patrol Forces Southwest Asia at the time of the incident.
Two Coast Guardsmen and five Navy sailors aboard a rigid hull inflatable boat were preparing to board a dhow that had approached the terminal when the explosion occurred. Two U.S. Navy sailors were also killed during the incident and three were wounded.
Petty Officer Bruckenthal is the first Coast Guardsman killed in action since the Vietnam War.
"I am extremely saddened by the loss of Petty Officer Nathan Bruckenthal who was killed by terrorists Saturday while bravely serving his country in Iraq," said Vice Adm. James D. Hull, Coast Guard Atlantic Area Commander. "I sincerely hope that his family and friends can find a little comfort knowing that he died a hero."
The Coast Guard is a military service, and although Petty Officer Bruckenthal is the first combat-related death since the Vietnam War, Coast Guard men and women have fought side-by-side with the other military services since our nation's founding.Approximately 300 Coast Guard people are currently assigned to Operation Iraqi Freedom from four 110-foot Coast Guard cutters, a port security unit, and two law enforcement detachments. Their responsibilities include ensuring safe navigation and protection of ports. The Coast Guard is working hand in hand with the Navy in the region. At the height of combat operations, the Coast Guard had approximately 1,250 personnel from various units deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom.