Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 Petty Officer 3rd Class Doyle Bollinger, Jr. died Thursday in Al Kut, Iraq, about 100 miles southeast of Baghdad. Bollinger was operating heavy equipment when either a land mine or unexploded ordinance detonated under his vehicle. Pentagon officials believe the incident is not a hostile act.
Bollinger was part of NMCB's 133 Air detachment, a group of about 150 Seabees who I was fortunate enough to travel with in Southern Iraq. Seabees with the battalion say the unit was repairing runways on the Al Kut airfield, along with going into the town for humanitarian aid, besides repairing the damage from the war.
21-year-old Bollinger was a builder in the Navy. His job was to perform any task that would make life easier for the troops in the field, like build tents or pour concrete. For the Gulfport Seabees it's still a shock that this accident happened.
"I can't believe he's gone like that," UT2 (SCW) Wesley Boyd said.
UT2 Boyd has just returned from deployment in Iraq.
"I was just on the ground out there, I just came back and it's like I just saw this guy yesterday, and now he's gone, it's a hard pill to swallow," Boyd said.
It's hard for Boyd to reminisce about Doyle Bollinger with getting misty eyed. He remembers that Doyle is a good Seabee and a good friend.
"Man. Bollinger, he was a cool, all right guy. He was quiet, stuck to himself, but he was real nice. We used to always tease him because he was always tall and slim, but he had such a baby face, but he was a real good guy. I used to pray every night hoping that a Seabee would never die out there. Thinking that no one would ever get hurt. We're a normal everyday people, out there putting our life on the line, and it's sad to know he lost his life out there," Boyd said.
Boyd doesn't know the specifics of Bollinger's death., but in many ways he's feeling the pain.
"I was happy to come back to the states but their was a part of me that felt like I was abandoning my fellow man, coming back to the states not knowing what they're going through out there," Boyd said.
As an embedded reporter with the 133 Air Detachment, I was also fortunate enough to meet Doyle Bollinger. My heart goes out to his family.