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Cummings’ unit suffered no casualties on ‘tip of spear’

Cummings’ unit suffered no casualties on ‘tip of spear’
Cummings’ unit suffered no casualties on ‘tip of spear’
Glenda Tillett of Leavenworth shows a picture that her son, Earl Ray Cummings Jr., at right, took when he was in Iraq. (Photo by Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor)

As a soldier who was on the ‘tip of the spear’ during the war with Iraq, Earl Ray Cummings Jr. saw combat but miraculously his unit, the 3rd/7th Calvary division of the U.S. Army, suffered no casualties.
‘We were told the percentage of losses to expect,’ said Cummings, 28, 1994 graduate of Crawford County Junior-Senior High School. ‘But we didn’t accept that.’
On Sunday afternoon, Cummings, an E-3, gave personal accounts of his time overseas and showed pictures and mementos from the war as he hesitantly accepted being the guest of honor at a surprise party hosted by his sister, Susan McGuffey.
Cummings and his wife, the former Kyann Carver, also a 1994 graduate of Crawford County High, arrived from Fort Stewart at Savannah, Ga., on Aug. 28 to visit family and friends in the Harrison-Crawford county area. The couple will return to base either today or tomorrow.
Cummings decided to join the military following 9/11.
‘I was always watching that stuff on the news,’ he said. ‘I had an opinion about it and decided to do something about it.’
He and Kyann talked it over for several months before Earl Ray enlisted in April 2002. His bride of five years moved with him to Georgia ‘to be closer to the information,’ she said.
Cummings and his unit were deployed Jan. 20. CNN news correspondent Walt Rogers went with them. That provided family back home with detailed information about their loved one.
‘We watched CNN to see his every move,’ said Cummings’ mother, Glenda Tillett of Leavenworth. ‘I got to see him several times.’
‘There was one time I could really tell it was him,’ Kyann said of a news report. ‘I could really see his face.’
Tillett said, ‘I knew which one was his (unit). I could see his number.
‘We were scared to death whenever we heard something had happened,’ she added.
Kyann said she worried about her husband, but she had a lot of faith in her husband’s captain as well as in her husband that he would return safely to the United States.
When Cummings arrived overseas, temperatures were a little on the cold side, but it didn’t stay that way long.
‘It was pretty hot,’ Cummings said. Often, the troops didn’t have electricity or running water. ‘We were losing weight like crazy.’
A couple of times they ran out of MREs, the ready-to-eat meals which provide about 6,000 calories a day. Cummings’ normal weight is about 190; he’s now 180, but he’d dropped to 155 to 160.
‘We were running so fast that we outran the supply trains,’ he said. ‘They did the best they could’ at keeping the troops supplied.
Cummings said his unit were befriended by two men, one of whom they trusted to provide them with live chickens and oats.
He said the majority of Iraqis sided with the American forces. ‘Some liked us just for being there,’ Cummings said.
But U.S. soldiers are still being killed by Iraqis loyal to Saddam Hussein and fighters from outside Iraq.
At one point during the war, Cummings’ unit donned chemical suits for protection from the possibility of chemical weapons being used against them.
‘They pretty much moved us around (to) where there was trouble,’ Cummings said. ‘Our responsibility was to secure the area for the rest of the division.’
His unit was partly responsible for the takeover of Saddam International Airport, renamed Baghdad International Airport.
Cummings saw several of Saddam’s palaces. ‘I’ve never seen anything like them,’ he said. ‘They cost millions and millions and millions of dollars.’
Cummings was not injured in combat, but he did sustain a knee injury during the convoy to Kuwait. He’s still waiting to get test results back to see what treatment doctors recommend.
Before actually leaving Iraq for the States, Cummings said they were told on more than one occasion to get ready to go.
‘We were supposed to go home on June 1,’ he said, ‘but they decided they needed to keep troops there’ longer.
Family and friends sent Cummings care packages, including Cracker Jacks from a buddy.
‘I decided there wasn’t anything more American than Cracker Jacks,’ said the man who sent them.
Packages took three to four weeks to reach the soldiers, but they arrived quicker than letters, many of which were about two months old by the time they were read.
Tillett said she and her family are proud of Cummings and the other armed forces. ‘They were sent there to do a job,’ she said. ‘It’s amazing to hear him tell the stories.’
Besides his wife and family, Cummings said he missed his six Chihuahuas, who provided companionship to Kyann while her husband was gone.
Cummings said he will undergo further training once he gets back to the base. He is considering a career in law enforcement when he completes his enlistment.