Army specialist recuperates in Kingman from explosion at Baghdad Airport

Spc.

Samuel Berridge was guarding the Baghdad Airport perimeter around 3 a.m.

April 3 when an explosion knocked him off his feet.

"I'd say I was within 20 meters (of the explosion)," Berridge said while on leave in Kingman.

"Shrapnel hit me in the chest, but I had a flak vest on.

"I was knocked out for a few seconds and when I came to I was on the ground 5 feet back from where I had been standing."

Berridge said he thought a rocket-propelled grenade struck him.

The blast wounded four other soldiers and killed three from his unit, the 3rd and 13th Field Artillery.

Spc.

Samuel Oaks was among the dead.

Berridge had recently befriended him.

Sgt.

Todd Robbins, another friend, also was killed in the explosion, the cause of which remains under investigation.

"It was a real shock," Berridge said.

"It made me think it could have been me and started my wheels turning thinking about death."

The 3rd and 13th Field Artillery is based at Fort Sill, Okla.

The unit went to Kuwait before the Iraq war and was attached to Delta 139, a field artillery unit out of Fort Benning, Ga.

In support of infantry assaults, Delta 139 fired more than 100 rockets at Iraqi troops during the conflict, Berridge estimated.

He said he saw several destroyed Iraqi military vehicles along the road on the way to Baghdad.

"The terrain (of Iraq) is basically flat," Berridge said.

"There are marshes close to the Euphrates River and palm trees around the cities.

"I saw sheep, donkeys and camels.

The towns we passed through were small with poor people."

Berridge, the son of Kingman residents Jesse and Cheryl Carranza, joined the Army in June 2000.

He is a technician who maintains and repairs multiple-rocket launch systems.

At Baghdad Airport, his flak vest saved his life.

The explosion punctured his left eardrum and embedded shrapnel in his left foot.

Berridge said he was first taken to the 212th MASH unit in Iraq before being flown by Blackhawk helicopter to a camp in Kuwait.

He was moved the following day to a field hospital in Kuwait City, where he spent another four days.

"I didn't know about my ear until going to the 8th Fleet hospital in Rota, Spain, where they found a hole in my eardrum," Berridge said.

Berridge spent nine days in Rota, part of the time on crutches.

He was sent to Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., for three days of examination and treatment and then to Fort Sill for additional checkups.

Army Pfc.

Jessica Lynch, who was held captive for a time in Iraq, was at Walter Reed at the same time, but he did not see or meet her, Berridge said.

Additional testing must be done to determine his hearing loss.

"I'm having trouble hearing high-pitched sounds, but in the normal range I should be fine," he said.

Berridge arrived in Kingman on April 24 to begin a month's recuperative leave.

His parents have nothing but praise for how well informed the Army kept them after their son was injured.

Jesse Carranza calling the flow of information "fantastic."

Carranza and his wife heard of the explosion while watching television news but did not know their son was involved, Jesse Carranza said.

"We must have gotten 20 calls over that weekend with bits of information," Cheryl Carranza said.

"(The Army) moved him around so quickly that by the time we found out where he was he had been moved again."

The first official notification for the Carranzas about their son came the day after the explosion in a call from Col.

Peter Baker in Washington, D.C.

He told them Samuel was hurt but that his injuries were not life threatening.

As Berridge moved from one medical facility to another, Baker and Lt.

Col.

Jim Connolly, a 313th Battalion commander, kept them informed of their son's status, Cheryl Carranza said.

Berridge said he looks forward to rejoining his unit at Fort Sill when his leave expires.