The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Staff Sergeant Dwayne E. Williams, 28, of Baltimore, Maryland, died August 24, 2006, while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 9th Engineer Support Battalion, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, III Marine Expeditionary Force, Okinawa, Japan.
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — As some 400 Marines with the 9th Engineer Support Battalion left from Camp Hansen for duty in Iraq last week, they received news a member of the unit was killed Thursday in Anbar province.
The Pentagon reported Saturday that Staff Sgt. Dwayne E. Williams, 28, of Baltimore, was killed while conducting combat operations. Family members told the (Baltimore) Sun newspaper they were told Williams, who had received a Bronze Star for dismantling hundreds of improvised explosive devices during three tours in Iraq, was killed when a bomb he was disabling blew up.
He is the third 9th Engineer Support Battalion bomb disposal technician to die from wounds sustained in Iraq this year. Last week the battalion held a memorial service on Camp Hansen for Sgt. John Phillips, 29, of St. Stephens, S.C., who died Aug. 16 from burns sustained from an explosion near Fallujah last spring.
And in March, Gunnery Sgt. Justin R. Martone, 31, of Bedford, Va., was killed by an IED blast in Anbar province.
At any time, about half of the 9th Engineer Support Battalion is deployed to Iraq. The Marines who left Okinawa last week were to swap with about 300 Marines who deployed to Anbar province in late February. Williams’ group was to return to Okinawa in late September.
Family members contacted by the Sun at a family reunion in Warrenton, N.C., told the newspaper that Williams had recently told an uncle that he had “a tough couple of weeks” before his death, suffering three concussions from IEDs.
One recent explosion blew his vehicle into the air, nearly killing him and his three team members, according to a Marine Corps Web site.
“As an explosive ordnance disposal team supporting a Marine infantry battalion in a deadly corridor between Fallujah and Ramadi, the three EOD technicians and Navy corpsman have responded to more than 250 possible IEDs since arriving in April,” the Marine Corps News story stated.
The team averaged three or four calls a day, said Williams, who was the team leader. They dubbed their small group “Team Rogaine” because several members said they suffered from random hair loss during their deployment, according to the Marine Corps news story.
“They say it’s from the stress,” Williams was quoted as saying. He was described as a “calm, quiet individual,” with a “laid-back personality.”
“[Disarming IEDs is] a job that needs to be done,” Williams said. “It’s an honor to be out here, doing what we do.”
Williams’ wife, LaStar and 4-year-old son, Malachi, are staying with relatives in North Carolina, according to the Sun.
Besides duty in Iraq, Williams was tapped for special assignments in Washington, D.C., in January 2005 to check for explosives during President Bush’s inauguration and in Cincinnati in 2004 when Vice President Dick Cheney threw out the first pitch for the Reds’ home opener.
An uncle told the Sun that Williams had planned to return to Baltimore, earn a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and pursue a career in law enforcement when he left the Marines.