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Stephen W Castner


It’s a six-lane road that could well be the deadliest highway in the world – Main Supply Route Tampa, which leads directly into Baghdad, Iraq from Kuwait. Roadside bombs and ambushes are common obstacles as insurgent fighters try to disrupt American forces.

On Monday, MSR Tampa claimed the first victim from southern Ozaukee County in the 3-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom, when a roadside improvised explosive device (IED) detonated and killed Stephen William Castner, a 1997 graduate of Cedarburg High School. His parents, Steve and Kay Castner, were notified Monday afternoon by a military representative.

Castner, 27, was a member of the 121st Field Artillery Regiment of the Wisconsin National Guard. Deployed earlier this summer to Camp Shelby, Miss., for training, he had been in Iraq about three days, and was on just his first mission, when he was killed.

Shane Dunlap, a close friend and former co-worker of Castner’s at the UW-Milwaukee information technology department, said Monday it was difficult to summarize a four-year friendship in a few sentences. In fact, it was difficult for Dunlap to talk at all about his friend’s death.

“It’s hard to believe it when I just talked to him in an e-mail a couple days ago,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap said he and others who regularly exchanged messages with Castner always looked forward to Castner’s replies.

“We could always look forward to something sarcastic from him,” Dunlap said.

Many of Castner’s friends gathered at Dunlap’s house Monday to remember their friend. They said if he would be remembered for anything, it was his favorite quote: “I do what I want.”

“He was a good man. He had many friends,” Dunlap said. “He will be missed.”

Upon graduation from CHS, the younger Castner joined the Air Force. As an Airman 1st Class specializing in electronic communications, he spent three years at Warren AFB in Wyoming, involved in the intercontinental ballistic missile force. His parents said Monday he wanted to be involved in flying and requested a transfer; when that didn’t pan out, he returned home following his enlistment and went to college, first at UW-Milwaukee and later at UW-Stevens Point. He enlisted in the National Guard for two one-year stints.

Castner’s father said his son’s electronic communication background was not tapped in Iraq; instead, he was trained with others in basic infantry skills, such as gun truck driving and machine gunning. Father and son both were concerned about the level of training offered at Camp Shelby, leading the elder Castner to exchange letters with U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner.

The Castners said Monday that their son’s mission was the only joint sojourn planned with a unit based in Appleton, one that it would be replacing as it rotated out of Iraq.


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