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thedrifter
05-08-07, 09:07 AM
Two killed in Iraq were devoted to duty


Travis Manion and Colby Umbrell probably didn't know each other, yet they shared much in common.

Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion was slain by a sniper's bullet in Iraq's Anbar Province on April 29.

Army 1st Lt. Colby Umbrell was killed by a roadside bomb near Musayyib, Iraq, four days later.

Both men were 26 years old, and they both grew up in Doylestown Township.

Both were excellent athletes. Manion played football, lacrosse and wrestled at LaSalle College High School. Umbrell was a football player and a member of the track team at Central Bucks East High School.

Both were good students. Manion graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he was a nationally ranked wrestler, in 2004. Umbrell graduated in 2004 from Johns Hopkins University in nearby Baltimore; he was a defensive lineman on the school's championship football team.

Both were natural leaders and chose to serve in the military. Within the military they possessed the motivation and drive needed to lead men in special, elite units.

Manion served with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, part of the 1st Marine Division and I Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Within the Corps, “Recon” Marines are considered the best of the best. Only a few are selected and they must pass rigorous, advanced training on mission planning, advanced patrolling, advanced radio communications, advanced land navigation, reconnaissance and surveillance techniques, calling for artillery and close air support, small boat operations, parachuting and clandestine operations.

Among their special missions are gathering information behind enemy lines, capturing specific personnel or sensitive materials, rescuing hostages or prisoners of war and conducting unconventional warfare.


Umbrell, too, had undergone specialized training at the prestigious and rigorous Army Ranger School. Army Ranger units perform missions similar to those of Recon Marines, but qualified applicants from throughout the Army can be accepted to the school, and even some Recon Marines undergo the demanding, specialized Ranger training.

Umbrell was a paratrooper serving with the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division based at Fort Richardson, Alaska.

The two men were a cut above the ordinary soldier or Marine.

And that, perhaps, is why they died where they did in two of Iraq's most dangerous areas.

Anbar Province west of Baghdad, where Manion died near the town of Fallujah, is a hotbed of the Sunni and al-Qaida insurgency. Umbrell died in the mostly Shiite town of Musayyib in the so-called “triangle of death” south of the capital. It has been the site of intense insurgent and secular violence.

But both Manion and Umbrell, their families, have said, were wholly committed to the struggle of bringing democracy and stability to the Iraqi people. They believed in what they were doing, and it cost them their lives — two young military officers, the same age, from the same town, with common interests and exceptional devotion to their duty.

Lou Sessinger is a columnist with The Intelligencer. He can be contacted at (215) 957-8172 or lsessinger@phillyBurbs.com.

May 8, 2007 6:06 AM

Ellie