Tuesday, January 09, 2007

God Speed SRA Elizabeth Loncki

SRA Elizabeth Loncki was in Iraq saving the lives of Soldiers, Airman, & Marines everyday. As on of the few female EOD techs she was doing a very dangerous job in a very nasty place. Rest Easy Sister, until we meet on Fiddlers Green.

New Castle native killed in Iraq
23-year-old senior airman was trying to disarm bomb
By ANDRE L. TAYLOR, The News Journal

Posted Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki
A 2001 Padua Academy graduate was one of three Air Force troops killed Sunday in a bomb blast near Baghdad, the Pentagon said Monday.

Senior Airman Elizabeth A. Loncki, 23, a New Castle native, was the first Delaware woman killed in the line of duty in Iraq and the 66th female American soldier killed there.

"She wanted to contribute to the country," said Loncki's aunt, Tina Masiello, adding that Loncki expressed no reservations about going to Iraq. "She was ready to go, it was a cause she deeply believed in. She told us not to worry."

Loncki, who was deployed to Iraq in August, was scheduled to return home in two weeks, her stepmother, Christine Loncki, said. Her boyfriend, Sgt. Jayson Johnson, who was stationed with her at Fort Hill Air Force Base in Utah, had planned to visit the family's New Castle home Thursday to ask her father's permission to marry her, Christine Loncki said.

Instead, Stephen Loncki got a visit Sunday afternoon from three men in uniform. He was taking down Christmas decorations at his New Castle home when they arrived.

"He knew right away what it was," Christine Loncki said.

Loncki's eldest daughter, they told him, died after her explosive ordnance disposal team was targeted by a car bomber near Al-Mahmudiyah.

Now, Johnson will serve as a military escort for Loncki's body as it is transported to the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base and prepared for burial. Her body is to arrive early this morning and remain there for at least 48 hours before she is turned over to her family in New Castle.

"She was a beautiful, beautiful child," a tearful Stephen Loncki said. "She loved her family and her family loved her. We miss her so much."

Loncki last spoke to her family on Christmas Eve, as she opened presents her father had sent.

"I sent her a DVD of a concert and some popcorn, and filled her stockings with a bunch of Christmas goodies," Stephen Loncki said.

"She sounded melancholy," Loncki recalled. "She knew her family was together and you could tell she felt far away. ... She was happy to talk to us, but a little sad, too, because she was so far away."

A faithful Catholic

Elizabeth Loncki attended St. Peter the Apostle grade school and graduated in 2001 from Padua in Wilmington, where she played volleyball. She briefly attended the University of Arizona before enlisting in the Air Force.

Masiello described her niece as a faithful Catholic who enjoyed rock music and swimming, and whose beauty belied an athletic toughness evidenced by her success on Padua's volleyball team and her ability to match boys push-up for push-up.

Her death brings the U.S. death toll in Iraq to 3,014, and comes during a week when President Bush is expected to announce plans to send more American troops into Iraq.

Killed in the same blast as Loncki were Tech. Sgt. Timothy R. Weiner, 35, of Tamarac, Fla., and Senior Airman Daniel B. Miller Jr., 24, of Galesburg, Ill. The three were assigned to the 775th Civil Engineer Squadron at Hill Air Force Base.

"There was a car with a suspected bomb in it they were investigating when it exploded," said Marilu Trainor, public affairs director at Hill Air Force Base.

Part of their mission

Trainor said Loncki was a member of the bomb squad, which would venture out into areas in and around Baghdad to investigate suspicious vehicles.

The bomb inside the car they were working on exploded while they were trying to disarm it.

"It's part of their mission every day," Trainor said. "It's not unusual for them to do these missions."

A military career, especially one charged with explosives, was a cause of concern for family. But Loncki tested well and was one of two women in a class of 16 who finished the training, her stepmother said.

"Elizabeth told me so many times, 'Don't worry about me. I'm going to be fine,' " Christine Loncki said.

The Salt Lake Tribune and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Contact Andre L. Taylor at 324-2890 or andretaylor@delawareonline.com.

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