Remembering Tiverton's Staff Sgt. Potts on the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War
Staff Sgt. Christopher Scott Potts, formerly of Tiverton, was killed in action on Oct. 3, 2004 during the Iraq War.
Ten years after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, thousands of soldiers - and one Tiverton staff sergeant - have fallen victim to a fight that although officially over, carries on.
Since March 19, 2003, the ensuing conflict has claimed the lives of more than 4,800 American troops. This, however, is just a sliver of the human cost of this war - one account counts of the casualties at more than 189,000 between civilians, opposition and allied forces.
CNN has a stunning map of all casualties in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Of the 4,802 Americans and allies killed in the war - not including those who died from hardship caused by the fighting - 12 are from Rhode Island, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.
Among the fallen heroes is Staff Sgt.Christopher Scott Potts, formerly of Tiverton. Sgt. Potts, a husband and father of two boys, was assigned to the 1st Battalion 103rd Field Artillery Regiment of the Army National Guard. He died in Taji, Iraq on Oct. 3, 2004. It was his 38th birthday.
Sgt. Potts' death occurred during a firefight on the banks of the Tigris River, which ultimately resulted in his brigade’s discovery of a weapons cache.
Potts was on a joint patrol hours before the firefight with Iraqi National Guard (ING) soldiers. The plan for the operation was sparked by an ambush that killed Potts and Sgt. Russell L. Collier of Arkansas.
Overcoming emotion, Potts’ brigade reorganized within 36 hours and went after those responsible by sealing off that area of Taji Village and searching 23 different homes and buildings inside. The brigade ended up discovering an improvised explosive device (IED) manufacturing facility, unearthing 23 120-millimeter mortar rounds, a South African 155-millimeter round and multiple detonation devices.
Leaders of Potts’ brigade said the soldiers used a “brilliant glimpse of professionalism” by going in there for justice instead of revenge. A bond was reportedly strengthened between the American and ING soldiers from the incident, as they worked together to execute the plan.
What resulted was the discovery of the weapons cache and the detaining of more than 50 men for questioning. More than 20 of them were later determined to be involved in anti-Iraq operations, including the trigger man responsible for the deaths of Potts and Collier.
The Potts family and the sergeant's friends honor his memory everyday and once a year they invite the community to join in celebrating the sergeant's sacrifice for his country. Every summer the SSG Christopher Potts Annual Fishing Tournament takes place in late September - celebrating fishing, family and raising money in the name of a hero.
(Historical context was used with credit to the Oct. 24, 2004, volume of The Bowie Edition article titled "Tragedy Leads 39th Brigade Combat Team to Major Discovery," by 1st Lt. Chris J. Heathscott of the team's public affairs office.)