Alabama loses first soldier

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A Mobile man became Alabama's first reported casualty of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Howard Johnson, II, a 21 year-old Army private first class, was among 25 U.S. troops

military officials have reported killed in the conflict.

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He served with the 507th Maintenance Co. and died as a result of combat, the military said.

"Americans have come to appreciate the courage and professionalism of these young patriots, and the loss of Pvt. Johnson and his comrades will be long remembered by the country," U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessons said in a prepared statement.

The 507th was ambushed last weekend. News reports said the company was attacked while attempting to surrender.

However, the sandstorms that thwarted much of the air war for the coalition began to abate early this morning as U.S. forces continued their march toward Baghdad.

Intelligence reports indicated a large Iraqi convoy moving south from the capitol city on Wednesday, possibly Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard.

Also on Wednesday, about 1,000 U.S. paratroopers for the 173rd Airborne Division dropped into an airbase in northern Iraq - the first large coalition presence in the Kurdish zone.

To the south, coalition aircraft engaged a convoy of Iraqi tanks and armored vehicles coming out of Basra, which is under seige by British troops.