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Deadly Afghan year takes toll on 101st Airborne

Dec 26, 2010 1:02:00 PM - thestate.com
The 101st Airborne Division, a force in America's major conflicts since World War II, is seeing its worst casualties in a decade as the U.S. surge in Afghanistan turns into the deadliest year in that war for the NATO coalition.

The Army division known as the Screaming Eagles, formed ahead of the 1944 Allied invasion of Normandy, has lost 104 men this year - or about 1 in 5 American deaths in Afghanistan. That is close to a toll of 105 divisional deaths in Iraq during a 2005-2006 deployment that was its deadliest year in combat since Vietnam.

The 20,000-strong division from Fort Campbell has been fighting in two of Afghanistan's most violent regions, the south and the east, since it began deploying in February under President Barack Obama's plan to roll back the Taliban with more troops. It is the first time the 101st has deployed in its entirety since Gen. David Petraeus led the division during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Few are as directly involved in dealing with each soldier's death as Kimberley McKenzie, the chief of Fort Campbell's casualty assistance center.

Among the first to be notified after a combat death, McKenzie and her nine staffers ensure families are informed quickly, helping them over the ensuing weeks and months to navigate a maze of paperwork and decisions.

USA, South Carolina: (Latest Stories)