Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Army Master Sgt. Dane Paresi (Rt)

Remember Our Heroes

A highly decorated soldier was among those killed in last week’s bombing at a CIA base in Afghanistan. Master Sgt. Dane Paresi, 46, grew up on Mount Scott and spent almost 30 years in the Army before retiring and going to work for the security company Xe which was formerly known as Blackwater.

After more than a quarter century in the Army, Master Sgt. Dane Paresi, of DuPont, retired in 2008 and briefly tried to settle into a civilian stateside job. But he quickly grew restless and joined Xe Services, the company formally known as Blackwater, on what a relative says was a security assignment in Afghanistan.
"He was just not meant to be behind a desk. He was meant to be on the front lines," said his brother Terry Paresi, of Oregon City, Ore. "He told me he was providing security as an independent contractor."

Paresi, 46, died Dec. 30 in an Afghanistan suicide bombing by a Jordanian double agent. The bombing killed seven Americans — five men and two women — including Paresi, another Xe contractor and five CIA employees.

The CIA has not released the names of any of those killed in the bombing at a base in eastern Afghanistan. Xe also has not publicly released any names of those who died. However, details of some of the dead have begun to trickle out in newspaper obituaries and family statements.

In the Pacific Northwest, relatives confirmed Dane Paresi's death.

His wife, MindyLou Paresi, told The News Tribune of Tacoma that she had been told her husband suspected something might be wrong with the Jordanian informant who came to meet with the CIA agents at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost Province. MindyLou Paresi said that her husband approached the bomber, and was the closest person to the bomber as the explosion happened. "He saved many people; unfortunately seven of them did die," she said in the News Tribune interview. "It could have been worse."

Paresi credited Xe for keeping her family informed in recent days. She told the News Tribune that she attended a ceremony with CIA Director Leon Panetta and other government officials after meeting her husband's casket Tuesday at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

"The Americans who fell in the line of duty last week at a CIA base in Afghanistan were courageous and patriotic," said George Little, a CIA spokesman. "They were doing essential work to protect our nation."

A federal law-enforcement official said this week that the bomber, a Jordanian doctor identified as Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, entered the base by car and detonated a powerful explosive just outside the base's gym where CIA operatives and others had gathered. It was unclear whether the explosives were hidden in a suicide vest or belt.

The bomber hit a sensitive CIA post, where agents were involved in targeting Taliban and other militant leaders through armed drones that flew across the border into Pakistan.

The bomber, at the time of his attack, had offered to share information about a top al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Xe, like its predecessor company Blackwater, is led by Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL who built a huge contracting business that since 9/11 has been involved in a wide range of security-related jobs for U.S. government agencies.

In Afghanistan, Xe has a range of contracts that include training Afghan border guards and has a role in assisting in CIA security. The New York Times reported that Blackwater once was involved in assisting the CIA drone program in Pakistan, where the company has been a flash point for controversy.

Paresi, a native of Portland, Ore., joined Xe after retiring from Fort Lewis, where he served in the Special Forces. His career included several overseas tours, including Afghanistan, and he earned numerous awards and medals, according to a statement released by the family.

After joining Xe, Paresi trained at the company's headquarters in North Carolina before heading over to Afghanistan. He told his brother Terry that he would be involved in security but never disclosed additional details about his assignment.

"My brother's true passions were the military and his family," said Terry Paresi. "He left for basic training the day after high school, and began the odyssey that finally just ended. He got done whatever needed to be done, whether it was messy or easy."

In addition to his brother Mark, survivors include Paresi's wife, MindyLou; two daughters; mother and father, Charles and Jan Paresi of Portland; three other brothers, Terry, Steve and Kirt; and a sister, Santina.

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