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Army Col. John M. McHugh

Died May 18, 2010 Serving During Operation Enduring Freedom

46, of Newark, N.J.; assigned to the U.S. Army Battle Command Training Program, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.; died May 18 in Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered in a suicide car bombing. Also killed were Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz, Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, Staff Sgt. Richard J. Tieman and Spc. Joshua A. Tomlinson.

Family says colonel killed in bombing

The Associated Press

WEST CALDWELL, N.J. — Relatives say a career Army officer from northern New Jersey has been killed in Afghanistan.

James McHugh of Caldwell told The Star-Ledger of Newark on May 19 that his son, Col. John McHugh, was among 18 people killed May 18 in a suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy in Kabul.

McHugh, a 46-year-old West Caldwell native, was a married father of five who had recently become a grandfather.

He graduated from James Caldwell High School in 1982 and went on to attend the U.S. Military Academy.

O-6, two O-5s among 5 killed in convoy blast

By David Larter

Staff writer

A suicide bomb attack in Kabul on May 18 killed five American soldiers, the highest number killed in a single attack in seven months.

A colonel and two lieutenant colonels were among those killed in the attack, marking the first time during the Afghanistan war that three officers of those ranks were killed in a single incident.

A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device after targeting a convey traveling down Kabul’s Darulaman Road.

The Defense Department on May 19 identified the soldiers.

* Col. John M. McHugh, 46, of Newark, N.J., assigned to the Army Battle Command Training Program, Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

* Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz, 43, of Waterloo, Wis., assigned to Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

* Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, 44, of Perrysburg, Ohio, assigned to Headquarters, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry), Fort Drum, N.Y.

* Staff Sgt. Richard J. Tieman, 28, of Waynesboro, Pa., assigned to Special Troops Battalion, V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany.

* Spc. Joshua A. Tomlinson, 24, of Dubberly, La., assigned to Special Troops Battalion, V Corps, Heidelberg, Germany.

The attack also killed Canadian Col. Geoff Parker and more than a dozen Afghan civilians.

Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told The Associated Press the bomber was a man from Kabul and that the vehicle was packed with 1,650 pounds of explosives.

A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said commanders thought the attack was indiscriminate and not part of a larger Taliban strategy targeting senior leaders.

“We don’t have any information that they were targeting the specific group,” Air Force Master Sgt. Jeff Loftin said.

McHugh had been in Kabul for a few days, traveling with Bartz and Belkofer. They were conducting a site survey in advance of the division headquarters deployment. The headquarters is scheduled to go to Afghanistan in the fall.

Tieman and Tomlinson were traveling with the convoy.

The incident was quickly condemned by ISAF and NATO leaders.

“This sort of desperate brutality and aggression reminds us of the pessimism of an enemy who seeks to kill the innocent and to stop the progress necessary for a better Afghanistan,” said ISAF spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz in a statement.

In addition to the loss of life, the blast damaged five ISAF vehicles and more than a dozen civilian vehicles.

The last attack of this magnitude was an IED attack on a Stryker in the Arghandab Valley on Oct. 27 which killed seven soldiers with 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division.

October was the deadliest month of the U.S.-led occupation of Afghanistan, claiming 56 service-members’ lives; 48 of them were soldiers. So far in May, 18 service members have been killed in Afghanistan.

‘He had this need to serve’

The Associated Press

John McHugh’s childhood friends knew he would have a distinguished career. They just didn’t know what it would be because he was good at so many things.

He was smart, a good athlete and a born leader.

“He excelled in everything he did since kindergarten,” said Kevin Morris, a lifelong friend.

McHugh, also known as “Johnny Mac,” settled on an Army career and rose to the rank of colonel.

Along the way, the West Caldwell, N.J., native graduated from West Point and earned two master’s degrees — one in administration from American Public University and the other in strategic studies from the Army War College.

His most recent job during his 24-year career was chief of operations with the Battle Command Training Program at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.

“He could have been the CEO of a company, but he had this need to serve,” said Gerald Giannetti, another childhood friend.

McHugh flew helicopters in Desert Storm in 1990 and went to Afghanistan last month on a training mission. He was killed May 18 in Kabul when a suicide bomber drove into a NATO convoy.

McHugh, 46, leaves behind his wife, Connie; five children; and a granddaughter.

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