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Local soldier killed in Iraq clinic attack - The Star Democrat - Easton, Maryland: News

Local soldier killed in Iraq clinic attack

Michael Yates had attended Colonel Richardson High

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Posted: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 12:00 am

FEDERALSBURG A 19-year-old Federalsburg soldier was one of five killed Monday by a fellow soldier at a U.S. military counseling clinic in Baghdad.

Shawna Machlinski said Tuesday her son, Michael Edward Yates Jr., was one of the victims. Yates left on Thanksgiving Day of last year for a yearlong deployment to Iraq.

Yates had been stationed as a cavalry scout with Forward Operating Base Hammer near Baghdad. He previously was stationed with Forward Operating Base Caldwell, and before that, served in Germany for about a year.

Yates leaves behind a year-old son, Kamren Alexander.

"We're going to miss a hell of a man," his mother said. "I don't know what to say right now."

Machlinski said her son came home on leave for 21 days in April, and told his family he was struggling with the things he had to do as a cavalry scout.

"He knew he couldn't go back into combat," she said.

Upon returning to Iraq, he entered a program at Camp Liberty in Baghdad to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder, Machlinski said.

Machlinski said he didn't like the program, but was actually friends with Sgt. John M. Russell, the man charged with five counts of murder for allegedly killing Yates and four others, including two military doctors.

"He went to that camp to get better and he never made it out of that camp," Machlinski said.

Machlinski said Yates had only been at the clinic for about five days when the shooting happened.

Machlinski, who last spoke to her son on Mother's Day, said he had talked about the alleged shooter. She said her son got along with him, but she recalled him saying, "this guy's got issues."

Yates was to leave Camp Liberty today and return to FOB Hammer to do administrative work at the headquarters.

Machlinski said she was told her son will be flown back through the Dover Air Force Base in the next few days.

Russell, 44, had served three tours of duty in Iraq and was due to leave soon, Maj. Gen. David Perkins told reporters. He was taken into custody by military police outside the clinic after the shooting.

In Baghdad, Perkins told reporters that Russell, a communications specialist assigned to the 54th Engineer Battalion from Bamberg, Germany, was sent to the mental health clinic by his superiors, presumably because of concern over his emotional state.

He said the commander had ordered Russell's weapon taken away from him but somehow he got a new weapon, entered the clinic and opened fire.

Perkins declined to give a detailed account of the shooting, saying the matter was under investigation.

However, a Pentagon official said in Washington that Russell had been escorted to the clinic, but once inside argued with the staff and was asked to leave.

After he drove away, Russell apparently seized his escort's weapon and returned to the clinic, the official said on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

The shooting was the deadliest case of American soldier-on-soldier violence since the Iraq war began in 2003.

Russell, of the 54th Engineer Battalion based in Bamberg, Germany, is charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in Monday's shooting, Perkins said.

Machlinski and her fiancé, Rick Van Blargan, who spent four years in the Army himself, have three other children in the military between them. Ricky Van Blargan III and Emily Moore are both in the Navy, while Alan Brady Jr. serves in the Army.

Yates had attended Colonel Richardson High School, where Principal Derek Simmons said Tuesday the faculty was in a state of shock after learning of his death.

"He was very well-liked by the faculty," Simmons said. "Michael was a great kid."

Simmons said Yates recently visited the school while he was home on leave.

Simmons said many seniors and juniors at the school knew Yates, and Guidance Counselor Brad Plutschak and Colonel Richardson Middle School Guidance Counselor Lori Frisbie were available all day to talk with students.

Simmons said the school faculty had not had time to decide how they would honor Yates' memory.

"We're all trying to get our minds around losing Michael," Simmons said. "Our hearts go out to his family."

In Washington, D.C., the Pentagon identified one of the five shooting victims as U.S. Navy Cmdr. Charles Springle, 52, of Wilmington, N.C.

As of Monday, May 11, at least 4,294 members of the U.S. military had died in the Iraq war since it began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The figure includes eight military civilians killed in action. At least 3,440 military personnel died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

The AP count is seven more than the Defense Department's tally, last updated Monday at 10 a.m. EDT.

Staff writer Abby Schmidt and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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