A family of 132, with one on the way

April 09, 2003|By SCOTT CALVERT

SOMEWHERE IN IRAQ — Before the 101st Airborne Division moved into combat in Iraq, Capt. Shane Dentinger didn't know what to expect of the days ahead.

"If, or when, that first soldier gets shot, how are the other soldiers going to react?" he said while hand-washing his clothes in a bucket, still at a staging area in Kuwait. "How am I going to react?"

The 101st is an air assault force, which means helicopters carry infantry soldiers into battle zones. The division's worst fighting may be yet to come.

Dentinger is a muscular 6-foot-3. What stands out, though, is his demeanor. He rarely curses or raises his voice, and to him, calling someone a "yahoo" is an insult. Before they left Kuwait, he played spades and watched movies with the soldiers who work for him.

Those above and below the captain praise him as a competent leader who has an unwavering compassion for his soldiers.

As the pace at Camp Pennsylvania picked up in the days before battle, the captain still managed to look after his soldiers. When the grandmother of Pfc. Danny Cross' wife died, Dentinger held a guard post for a lieutenant so the man could help Cross call home.

"It felt good to have a chain of command that actually cares about events that go on at home," Cross said. "A lot of guys are just caught up with the job we have to do."

Not Dentinger. He understands the stress an Army life can place on a family. The captain has a wife, a 7-year-old daughter and a son on the way waiting for him back home.

Until he gets there, this is his family, these 130 men.

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