November 9, 2011
Two captains mourned at a Fort Carson memorial service on Wednesday died in Afghanistan while on a mission of peace.
Capts. Drew Russell and Joshua Lawrence were staff officers in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, planners who fought the war with laptop computers rather than rifles. On Oct. 9, they were at an Afghan security forces compound working out details of a province-wide peace summit in Kandahar when insurgents attacked with rocket-propelled grenades.
“We lost two friends,” said eulogist Maj. James Wiles, addressing the packed pews of Soldiers Memorial Chapel on the post.
The mission that left Russell and Lawrence dead could be important in the Afghanistan war.
American forces and their Afghan allies are working toward a rapprochement with the Taliban, a plan that would see insurgents lay down their arms and work in concert with the local government.
Friends said the Army couldn’t have picked two better men to work out the delicate details of the peace meeting.
The two were experts at using humor to help others decompress from the stress of war, friends said. They were also seen as hard-chargers, eager young officers who were driven to succeed.
“His ability and compassion enabled him to succeed in any endeavor,” Capt. Scott Anderson said of Lawrence.
“Drew was a person everyone liked,” Capt. William Morgan said of Russell.
At 29, Russell was a newlywed who had big plans for his future. His wife, Brittany says he dreamed of being an astronaut someday.
In Afghanistan, Russell had a difficult job — night battle captain for the brigade’s cavalry squadron. Battle captains help guide troops on the ground by translating orders from above.
“He made the hard decisions when they had to be made,” Morgan said.
It’s a job with plenty of headaches and little glory. But Russell loved it.
Friends say he’d been dreaming of life as a soldier since shortly after he learned to walk.
Lawrence, 25, long dreamed of leading soldiers in combat. His job in Afghanistan wasn’t a dream come true.
Lawrence was the brigade’s assistant operations and planning officer, fighting the war with PowerPoint slides.
Friends said he spent long hours on his job, pulling together concise presentations on the brigade’s future plans and adeptly shifting resources to meet combat needs. He often went without sleep, working all night so the brigade’s combat operations would run smoothly.
“He was the unsung hero and hidden orchestrator of the brigade,” Anderson said.
Comrades have taken over the mission that cost Lawrence and Russell their lives. A lasting monument to the two would be peace in Afghanistan.
Wiles said their work is paying off.
“Without doubt (they) prevented the loss of more lives.”