10/29/2003

Military Police Officers Killed in Action in Iraq

Officer Down: LTC Kim Orlando - [Fort Campbell, Kentucky]

Tennessee officer with 101st slain while leading his troops

AP / FILE

By SHEILA BURKE
Staff Writer

Two other soldiers in MP unit killed in nighttime clash

Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando was never a man to lead from behind.

That's why the description of the Fort Campbell military police commander's slaying came as no surprise to one of his friends.

''How he got killed is the epitome of his leadership and courage,'' said Eric Provost, a retired military police officer who also served at Fort Campbell.

Orlando, 43, a Tennessean who commanded the 716th Military Police Battalion, and his soldiers were trying to negotiate with a group of armed men standing on a road outside a mosque in Karbala, Iraq, after curfew Thursday, the Army said in a statement yesterday. The Iraqis opened fire on the MPs, killing Orlando and two of his men.

''He was at the tip of the spear, and that's where he placed himself,'' said Provost, who is chief of the Austin Peay State University campus police department.

''He was a great professional, totally dedicated to the Army, a great friend and a great husband and father,'' Provost said.

Killed with Orlando was Staff Sgt. Joseph P. Bellavia, 28, of Wakefield, Mass., a military policeman. Bellavia's identical twin brother, Johnathan, is a policeman in suburban Hendersonville, Hendersonville Police Chief David Key confirmed last night.

Also slain was Cpl. Sean R. Grilley, 24, of San Bernardino, Calif. He and Joseph Bellavia were team leaders with the 194th Military Police Company, part of the 716th MP Battalion and all from Fort Campbell, the Army said. Seven other soldiers were wounded in the exchange.

Their deaths illustrate the dangers that the MPs are increasingly facing in Iraq, Provost said. ''It's very difficult to get infantrymen or a tanker to be able to do the things the military police are doing,'' Provost said. ''Imagine taking 600 people to go in to police New York City, and everybody in the city has got a weapon. It's just almost inconceivable the job they've got in front of them.''

Orlando, who is survived by a wife and two sons, was the top officer of the 716th MP Battalion, part of the 101st Airborne Division. He had been in the Army for 21 years. His wife, Sherry, is a public affairs officer at Fort Campbell.

Despite his rank, Orlando often worked among the rank and file, recalled Fort Campbell spokesman John Minton. ''I've known him a long time,'' Minton said. ''This was a hard-charging guy, an out-in-the-front kind of guy.''

Orlando served in Desert Storm and Desert Shield in 1990 and 1991. Provost said he thought his friend was the recipient of a Bronze Star medal for his service in the first war in Iraq. He had been stationed at Fort Campbell since June 2002.

Orlando is one of three Army lieutenant colonels to have been killed in Iraq. That rank is the highest of any American military personnel to have died there, according to a list of American war dead compiled by Bloomberg News.

The other two lieutenant colonels were Lt. Col. Anthony L. Sherman, 43, of Pottstown, Pa., an Army Reservist in a Civil Affairs unit who died Aug. 27 of a noncombat medical problem, and Lt. Col. Dominic R. Baragona, 42, of Niles, Ohio, commander of the 19th Maintenance Battalion based at Fort Sill, Okla., who was killed in a wreck May 19.

As of yesterday, according to The Associated Press, 336 American Service members have died in the war in Iraq, including 101 who have died since May 1, when major combat operations ceased.

The deaths of the three MPs raise to 26 the number of Fort Campbell soldiers who have died in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Thirteen of those deaths were the result of enemy fire.

Before coming to Fort Campbell, Orlando served as executive officer of the military police command for the Army's 18th Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., Provost said.

Provost also said his friend was a master parachutist, the top designation the military gives for its most experienced paratroopers, and that he had earned the title of ''jumpmaster,'' meaning he was trained to oversee other soldiers as they jumped out of planes.
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