HARRISBURG, Pa., July 20, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Three Pennsylvania National Guard soldiers were killed and five wounded Monday when an improvised explosive device detonated on their convoy outside of Bagram, Afghanistan.
Sgt. Edward Koehler, 47, of Lebanon, Sgt. Brian Mowery, 49, of Halifax, and Staff Sgt. Kenneth VanGiesen, 30, of Kane, were transporting supplies and equipment when they were killed in the same vehicle.
None of the five wounded soldiers sustained life-threatening injuries.
The soldiers were serving with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard's, 131st Transportation Company, 213th Area Support Group, based in Williamstown and Philadelphia. The company is primarily in charge of convoys and convoy security.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these brave young men who have made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of this country," said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett. "This tragic incident is a stark reminder of the dangers our troops face on a daily basis for the cause of freedom. We owe them our respect, our support and our gratitude."
Koehler was a 1982 graduate of Lebanon High School. After serving with the Marine Corps from 1982 to 1988, he took a 10-year break from service. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania National Guard in 1997 as a motor transport operator, serving his entire Guard career in the 131st Transportation Company.
Koehler served with the 131st in Kuwait and Iraq from 2003 to 2004. His awards included the Combat Action Badge, three Army Reserve Component Achievement Medals, Army Achievement Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Service Medals, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and the Governor's Unit Citation.
"As a former Marine noncommissioned officer, Edward Koehler was known for his impeccable military bearing and eagerness to challenge himself and those around him," said Maj. Gen. Wesley Craig, Pennsylvania adjutant general. "When he was a private in the Marine Corps, Koehler took pride in playing Taps at the end of each day while his company was deployed to Diego Garcia. Unfortunately it is now our solemn duty to play Taps for him."
Mowery was a 1980 graduate of Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg. He started his military career in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1979 to 1985. After a 15-year break in service, Mowery returned to uniformed services, this time with the Army National Guard, in 2000. He served in the Pennsylvania National Guard as an infantry team leader and a motor transport operator.
Mowery served for several months in Kosovo from 2003 to 2004 with the Kutztown-based Company C, 1st Battalion, 111th Infantry Regiment. His awards included two Army Commendation Medals, Army Reserve Component Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, NATO Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Driver and Mechanic Badge, Kosovo Campaign Medal and the Governor's Unit Citation.
"Brian Mowery exemplified what it means to be a noncommissioned officer and served as an example to the younger soldiers around him," said Craig. "He demonstrated leadership potential far above his rank and never hesitated to assume responsibility, no matter how big the challenge."
VanGiesen was a 1999 graduate of Kane Area High School. After enlisting in the Pennsylvania National Guard as a fuel and electrical systems repair specialist in 1999, VanGiesen went on to become a heavy-vehicle driver, light-wheeled vehicle mechanic, and armament repairman.
VanGiesen was on his fourth active-duty tour. He previously served in Germany from 2002 to 2003, Iraq from 2005 to 2006 with the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and 2009 with the 56th Stryker Brigade Combat Team. His awards included two Army Commendation Medals, Combat Action Badge, two Iraq Campaign Medals, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation and two Navy Unit Commendations.
"Kenneth VanGiesen was an enthusiastic soldier who never shied away from the call to duty," said Craig. "During his 12 years in the National Guard, VanGiesen served more than four total years on active duty. His selfless dedication to serving our country will be sorely missed."
The deaths of Koehler, Mowery and VanGiesen bring to 39 the total number of Pennsylvania National Guard members killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The impact of the tragic loss of our three soldiers is felt throughout the entire Pennsylvania National Guard," said Craig. "We will honor their service by caring for their families left behind, and by increasing our determination to accomplish the mission they set out to do."
They will be posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. Memorial service arrangements are pending.
Editor's note: The family of Sgt. Edward Koehler wished to release the following statement: The family would like to express their appreciation for the heartfelt condolences and prayers. Please know this thoughtfulness is providing much needed comfort. Continue to pray for all of our troops and their safety. Their daily sacrifices must not go unnoticed.
Media contact: Maj. Edward Shank, 717-861-8468 (office), 717-943-4092 (cell)
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs