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Iraq Transition

Missing soldier was 'new guy,' another knows Arabic

Story Highlights

• Platoon leader says missing and slain soldiers were "silly guys"
• 1st Lt. Morgan Spring-Glace vows "anyone who was involved will pay"
• He recalls one of the missing soldiers as a 19-year-old "bright kid"
• Another has an "invaluable sense of humor"
By Arwa Damon
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NEAR YUSUFIYA, Iraq (CNN) -- One of three U.S. soldiers missing after a deadly Iraqi ambush had been chided by his comrades for being "the new guy," and another taught himself Arabic while in Iraq, their platoon leader recalled Friday.

The trio is the focus of an intense, day-and-night search by U.S. and Iraqi forces in the aftermath of a bloody ambush south of Baghdad that took the lives of four other U.S. troops and an Iraqi soldier Saturday.

The voice of 1st Lt. Morgan Spring-Glace fills with anger and pain as he remembers his four slain soldiers, including one who had just received a new baseball cap from his wife.

"Don't be sorry for the soldiers. They fought with honor and they died with honor. We will find the lost soldiers, and anyone who was involved will pay," the 25-year-old platoon leader says.

The platoon was shattered by what happened. In the shade of the front entrance at Patrol Base Inchon, a two-story home nestled in the fields and farmlands along the Euphrates River, Spring-Glace offers details of the morning when every soldier's worst nightmare became a reality, just about half a mile from the base. (Watch soldiers describe the shock of Saturday's ambush Video)

"The thing that concerns the soldiers most is that this will be perceived as enemy tactical superiority. It's not," he says.

Spring-Glace and his response unit were among the first to arrive at the attack site, navigating past a roadside bomb along the way. He says he was sure he would find Sgt. 1st Class James D. Connell Jr., 40, pulling security duty when he arrived.

Connell of Lake City, Tennessee, was among those killed. "Connell was a father of four. His eldest daughter is named Courtney," Spring-Glace says.

Spring-Glace says he thought there would be eight bodies at the scene -- his seven soldiers and the Iraqi soldier. "No one thought there would be an abduction."

Camaraderie bonded soldiers

Remembering the rest of his men brings both a smile and sorrow for the young platoon leader.

"They were all a bunch of silly guys," Spring-Glace says. "They had a sense of humor that bound them together."

• Pfc. Christopher Murphy was a 21-year-old assistant gunner from Gladys, Virginia. "Like his squad leader said, he died the death of an Irishman. The enemy could not physically restrain him, even though he had shrapnel wounds all over his body. He wrestled them, so they shot him," Spring-Glace says.

Murphy's body was found a short distance from the attack. "He was a 'Star Wars' enthusiast. He wore glasses. His glasses were broken, always broken. And when he got angry, his voice would get high-pitched."

• Daniel Courneya, 19, was promoted posthumously to a specialist, from a private first class. He was nicknamed "Cornball."

"He had just married his wife, Jennifer, less than a year ago. She had just sent him a baseball cap," Spring-Glace says.

• Sgt. Anthony Schober of Reno, Nevada, was a 23-year-old squad leader. His was the last body to be identified. "He was a goofy guy, skinny, with the metabolism of a god," he says, with a sad smile. "When he got back, he was going to a permanent station in Italy." (Watch the Schober family describe Anthony as a son, brother, soldier Video)

Thousands of soldiers remain on around-the-clock patrol, searching and hoping for any signs of the three still missing. Those three are Pvt. Byron W. Fouty, 19, of Waterford, Michigan; Spc. Alex R. Jimenez, 25, of Lawrence, Massachusetts; and Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, California. (Read about the dangers of the search)

Spring-Glace describes Fouty as a rifleman who is a "bright kid" and who was "given a lot of grief because he was the new guy." Jimenez is a gunner who is "married, but with no children. He had an invaluable sense of humor, taught himself conversational Arabic."

Anzack is also a gunner. Spring-Glace recalls that one time local media erroneously reported Anzack was dead. The platoon leader, like all involved in the search, are clinging to hope that Anzack and his two other colleagues remain alive today.

They are navigating through miles of farmland, searching farmhouses and combing through thick brush for their comrades -- constantly aware that one wrong step could lead to an explosion of a hidden bomb or that insurgents could ambush them again.

Pfc. Samuel Rhodes says he will remember the fun times -- the way the platoon always found a way to joke and keep strong, even under the worst of circumstances.

"I want people to know that they are good men. They believed in what they were doing and they fought for what they believed in, and it wasn't stupid what they did," Rhodes says, trying to control his pain.

"It's twice as hard every day. We depend a lot on each other right now. Our heart was broke, but it's our will and our strength that keeps us going for our guys."

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