James Foley embedded with National Guard, wrote for Post-Tribune

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Journalist James Foley went to the Middle East in 2008 when he embedded with the Indiana National Guard 76th Infantry unit as it prepared to head to Iraq, and sent back several dispatches as a correspondent for the Post-Tribune, a sister publication of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Foley, 40, was killed by Islamic State militants, his death by beheading shown in a gruesome video released Tuesday. He had been missing since November 2012 while freelancing in northern Syria.

Two U.S. officials have confirmed that the victim is Foley, and another U.S. official said the video appears to be authentic. Foley’s parents also have confirmed his death.

Besides his work at the Post-Tribune, Foley also had served as a counselor at Cook County’s juvenile boot camp. Sheriff Thomas Dart issued a statement Wednesday expressing “shock and sadness” at Foley’s death.

“We join the country in being outraged at the events surrounding his death. Jim dedicated his life to serving others and effecting change. We thank him from the bottom of our hearts for his service and for all he did while working with us and for all he did to shine a light on the injustices and suffering in the world.”

In March 2008, Foley was in Kuwait with the Indiana Guard’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which had arrived in Kuwait for training after shipping out of Fort Stewart, Georgia.

In 2011, Foley’s friend Jeremy Gantz wrote this article after Foley was captured in Libya in April 2011. Foley was released after six weeks in captivity and two weeks later spoke at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. Foley had received his master’s in journalism from Medill in 2008.

Here are some excerpts and photos from his dispatches with the Indiana National Guard:

Arabic speakers aid Indiana Guard unit

February 25, 2008

By James Foley


Sgt. Rida Sihabmansour, 25, speaks English, French and five dialects of Arabic. His first name, Rida, in Arabic means “God’s forgiveness.”

Now Sihabmansour is helping train members of the Indiana National Guard’s 76th Infantry brigade combat team on Arab customs and basic phrases before their deployment to Iraq.

It’s part of a comprehensive acculturation and language training required of all soldiers, from privates to colonels.

Spc. Andy Casiano, 21, of East Chicago, said while at Camp Atterbury, south of Indianapolis, guardsmen were given scenarios in which soldiers were required to use Arabic translators to intermediate conflicts between Arabic speakers. “It really immersed us,” Casiano said. “It gives you perspective on what to expect.”

March 12, 2008

‘It really toughens you up’

By James Foley


Editor’s note: Post-Tribune correspondent James Foley is embedded with the Indiana National Guard’s 76th Infantry as it prepares to ship out to Iraq.


Sgt. Matthew Tiblow of Hobart is in a little bit of trouble. He’s an Army logistical specialist, a “log dog,” but the Indiana National Guard soldiers he’s deploying with have him under a 2 1/2-ton truck hooking the safety chain around the axle.

It’s part of a towing exercise, but clearly not Sgt. Tiblow’s specialty. In fact, it’s the first time he’s hooked up a tow bar from a 90,000-pound Hemmit wrecker, and the infantry guys are enjoying his difficulty.

One of them mutters, “How long is it going to take you?”

Tiblow emerges from underneath the Hemmit covered in grease and dirt. He shakes his head and smiles. Tiblow takes the joking pretty easily, in part because he’s a combat veteran who was last deployed to Camp Speicher in Iraq in 2004-05.

It was a special deployment for several reasons. One, because Tiblow volunteered to head to Iraq with any National Guard unit going.

“I wanted to serve my country,” he said.

Tiblow ended up assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division of New York and New Jersey. Many of the soldiers he served with had direct or family connections to the terrorist attack Sept. 11.

“We had a female chaplain who had to inform families after Sept. 11,” Tiblow said. “Some (soldiers) had actually cleaned up the disaster. It meant more (serving) with guys from that area.”

The most memorable event of that deployment was a Sept. 11 memorial service with fellow soldiers from New York and New Jersey, he said.

This time around he’s with the Indiana Guard’s 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, which has recently shipped out of Fort Stewart, Ga., and is training in Kuwait.

Firefighters’ skills save a life in Iraq

May 15, 2008

By James Foley


When a fuel tanker truck took a tight corner too quickly and toppled over, lucky for the driver that his armored convoy escort included two Indiana National Guardsmen trained as civilian firefighters.

The nighttime accident left the driver of the tanker pinned upside down, and the tanker gushing gallons of fuel.

Spc. John Villegas, 41, of Portage, and Cpl. Christopher Collins, 26, of Kenosha, Wisc., — both with the Alpha Co. of the Indiana National Guard’s 1/293rd Battalion — knew exactly what to do.

“I went straight to fire-rescue mode,” Villegas, a firefighter for the city of East Chicago, said. “I knew I had to do some kind of extraction.

“There was some adrenaline going,” Villegas said, “especially since I’ve been to some tanker accidents but not with hundreds of gallons of fuel pouring out.”

Villegas cut the man’s seat belt, and then he and Collins yanked on the steering wheel that had the man pinned.

“We had to move the steering wheel,” Villegas said, but “with all the strength that I had I couldn’t. So Collins, literally, he locked my waist while I’m holding the steering wheel so it was like double pulling.”

Still they couldn’t budge the wheel enough to free the pinned driver. “Finally Sgt. (Justin) Anderson (a 28-year-old from Columbia City) came and with that little bit extra, we got him out,” Villegas said.

“I bandaged him and stopped the bleeding,” Villegas said. “We got him by our truck and shock kicked in. He’s Indian; he went from dark to white. So I told Collins ‘get me a stick kit,’ and we started getting fluids in him.”

Convoy commander Staff Sgt. Daryl Bollhoefer, 25, of Logansport directed radio communications with battalion headquarters from his Humvee about a mile ahead of the accident.

“I kept asking them, ‘Is it life-threatening; do I need to call a medevac (rescue helicopter)?’ ” Bollhoefer said.

Villegas responded that he thought the injured trucker was going into shock.

“I was real proud of the way they handled it,” Bollhoefer said, “very calm, very patient. They gave constant updates to the medevac.”

As for this rescue, “I was just doing my job,” Villegas said. “It was kind of God-sent, because we volunteer for every mission. Sgt. Bollhoefer came late (the night before) and asked us a favor to run with him. (It) would have been our day off, but we said sure. And when he said we’d be in the fire truck we started laughing, because we haven’t been in this thing yet.”

When the chopper arrived for the injured driver, Villegas and Collins had to run approximately 200 meters carrying the wounded man on a stretcher.

“Everything fell right into place,” Villegas said the next morning after the rescue. “What are the chances you got two firefighters, playing firemen? Overall we worked awesome as a team. We had a plan ready.”

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