Originally published Dec. 23, 2004.

Lt. Col. John Jansen, commander of the Maine Army National Guard’s 133rd Engineer Battalion, plans to remain at Forward Operating Base Marez through Christmas.

Jansen normally lives and works five miles away at Camp Freedom, a former palace built by Saddam Hussein that now serves as headquarters for Operation Iraqi Freedom’s Task Force Olympia.

But he wanted to be closer to his soldiers as they deal with the deaths of Spc. Thomas Dostie, 20, of Somerville and Sgt. Lynn R. Poulin Sr., 47, of Freedom in Tuesday’s bombing at Marez’s dining facility.

“It’s hard for everyone right now, ” Jansen said. “I think this is going to stick with people for a long time. But I also think we’ll be able to work through it.”

Jansen said the 133rd continues to receive, and appreciate, “an incredible amount of support from the people of Maine. It’s truly amazing.”

He added quietly, “The hardest part right now is to think about the families of these two soldiers. That tears me apart.”

WHILE THE 133RD REELS from Tuesday’s horrific bombing at the dining facility, its 13 cooks spent Wednesday scrambling to feed more than 500 hungry soldiers.

The cooks, who have done other jobs at the base because the food service was contracted out to the private firm Kellogg, Brown & Root, set up their two mobile kitchen trailers.

The stations will serve as distribution centers for food ferried in from Marez’s storage units and from the dining facility at nearby Camp Diamondback.

Breakfast and dinner will be bagged and handed out to the soldiers, said Sgt. 1st Class Wayne King of Wells, head of the culinary unit.

Lunch, he said, will be Army-issue MREs (meals ready to eat).

“We have food. We have water, ” King said gamely. “Nobody will starve.”

THE 133RD’S in-barracks Internet system, built months ago by Spc. Patrick Leary, was down because of equipment problems for two days before Tuesday’s attack.

Then, according to military policy, it remained inaccessible until the families of the soldiers killed in action could be notified.

Finally, shortly after 6 p.m. Wednesday, Leary received authorization to turn the network back on.

The base appeared deserted as soldiers rushed inside to their keyboards and logged on with their loved ones.

“I don’t care if it goes down again next week, ” said Spc. David Berry of Biddeford as he e-chatted with his mother in Buxton. “As long as it’s working on Christmas.”

Staff Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at at:

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