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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November 13th, 1995...

It was twelve years ago today that I lost my boss (and best friend) Dub Combs in the car bombing of the OPM-SANG bulding in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I had worked there from late 1991, just after the end of the first Gulf War, to the end of 1993. Besides Dub, a couple of other guys in Contracts were also killed, including Jim Allen, who I played with on the office softball team. A civilian engineer who was killed was Wayne Wiley - I had taken a train trip to the Eastern Province just before I left Saudi with Wayne and his wife, Renata. I knew all but one of the victims.

I was woken up the morning of the 13th by a call from my friend, Susan Bacon, who had also left Saudi and had seen news of the bombing on CNN. I turned on CNN in time to see video of the destroyed building and news that several people had been killed. I knew that friends of mine had died, but I didn't know which ones. That grim news would come out over the next couple of days.

The American victims eventually identified as James Allen, 55, of Atlanta, Mich.; Alaric Brozovsky, 31, of Spokane, Wash.; William "Dub" Combs, 54; and Wayne Wiley, 55, (all Department of the Army civilian employees) and Sgt. 1st Class David K. Warrell, 34, of Hasty, N.C. Also killed were two Indian nationals who worked in the building's restaurant.

My personal life had been in a state of flux. After leaving Saudi I went back to Columbus, Ohio, to continue teaching for the Department of Defense. But I was disillusioned with the Government so I left entirely and went back home to the Twin Cities to finish my MBA. To make a few bucks I drove for Quicksilver delivery service. In November of 1995 I was in the last semester of my MBA and had decided to join the Peace Corps in a special program that required an MBA and was in Russia, helping Russian businesses make the transition to a free market economy.

I called my old office the day after the bombing and asked if they needed help. Not surprisingly, they said they did, since they had lost about half of their Contracts staff as either injured or killed. So, instead of going into the Peace Corps I was back in Saudi for another year.

My life changed a lot as a result of the bombing, but nothing like my friends who were there. I have a framed picture of the bombed office building on my office wall, along with a picture of Dub (taken at my going away party) to remind me of him and what happened that day.

Ambassador: Car bomb destroyed military building
Six dead, 60 injured

November 13, 1995Web posted at: 11:45 a.m. EST (1645 GMT)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador in Saudi Arabia has confirmed it was a bomb that destroyed a military building in Riyadh on Monday. Six people were killed, including five Americans. Sixty others were injured.

Raymond Mabus, the U.S. ambassador in Riyadh, said a bomb blew up the U.S.-leased building. Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon told CNN preliminary reports indicated there was a large explosion in a parking lot outside the training facility at around 11:20 a.m. (3:20 a.m. EST, 0820 GMT), followed by a smaller blast about five minutes later.

Officials in Saudi Arabia indicated the explosion was a deliberate act of terrorism and said authorities were confident of "arresting those who carried out this crime." A group called The Islamic Movement for Change has claimed responsibility.

Sources told CNN the United States is working under the assumption that the explosion was the result of a car bomb, but officials have not ruled out the possibility the blast was the result of a natural gas explosion.

Saudi Arabia, U.S. State Department and Pentagon officials said the three-story building is used by U.S. military and civilian personnel.

Bacon identified the office building as the headquarters of the Office for Program Management of the Saudi Arabian National Guard (OPM-SANG). He said a mix of U.S. military and contract workers worked there in a training capacity. It was not immediately known if the causalities were military or civilian.

Witnesses said the scene was chaotic right after the blast. Bystanders helped to load bleeding casualties into cars to be taken to hospitals. "We are seeing a lot of burns," said a hospital spokesperson in Riyadh. Witnesses said the blast was felt across the city. "A huge explosion shook our building," a Riyadh resident said. "It was like an earthquake." (
200K AIFF sound or 200K WAV sound)
Saudi Arabia was the launching point for the U.S.-led multinational military force that drove Iraq's occupation troops from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War. But the U.S. military training mission in Saudi Arabia is unrelated to the troops stationed there in the aftermath of the Gulf War.

[The Pentagon identified four of the Americans as civilian employees of the United States Army: James Allen, 55, of Atlanta, Mich.; Alaric Brozovsky, 31, of Spokane, Wash.; William Combs, 54; and Wayne Wiley, 55. The fifth American killed was Sgt. 1st Class David K. Warrell, 34, of Hasty, N.C.]


Steve "Styopa" Channer said...

I don't exactly know hat I mean, but 2007 has ended pretty eventfully for you, hasn't it?

1995 ended pretty eventfully for you, too.

Go figure...

metrichead said...

James Allen was my dad; I spent the summer of 1995 with him in Riyadh. I also knew Wayne and Alaric. Him playing softball sounds about right.


Anonymous said...

My name is Andrew Cooper, Master Sergeant (ret), and I was in the building when the bomb exploded. If I remember correctly, all the Americans killed were my neighbors in the Palms Compound, and all were good people. Dave Warrell was a friend, and ironically, he told me, and several others, that he had advised General Nash that, due to intelligence information, barricades were needed around the headquarters and all compounds. He said Nash 's reply was we haven't had any serious threats, and refused Dave's advise. Shortly after that he, Nash, leaves Saudi, Sad, very sad! P.S. I knew your dad as well.