ATHENS, Ga. — Army 1st Lt. Noah Harris, a 2003 graduate of the University of Georgia's Terry College of Business, died June 18 in Baquba, Iraq, while on duty with the 3rd Infantry Division. He was 23.
Harris died from wounds received when rocket-propelled grenades fired by insurgents struck his armored Humvee shortly before midnight June 17. The driver of the same vehicle — Cpl. William A. Long — was killed and a third soldier was critically injured. Harris and the other two soldiers were transporting an Iraqi detainee captured during night operations in the Baquba neighborhood of Buhritz.
The attack occurred as American forces were working with Iraqi Army units to seal off and sweep the area for terrorists and anti-Iraqi forces, according to a U.S. Army spokesman. The city of Baquba is located about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the area of Iraq known as the Sunni Triangle. Baquba is the capital of Diyala Province, which is located on Iraq's eastern border with Iran.
Harris was leader of the 3rd Platoon in B Company, 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor, based at Fort Benning, Ga. He had only been back in Iraq a few weeks, having spent two weeks in May on leave visiting family and friends in Georgia.
A public memorial service will be held Saturday, June 25, on what would have been Harris' 24th birthday, at the First United Methodist Church in Ellijay, Ga. Though a second lieutenant when he was killed, Army officials told the Harris family Noah was posthumously promoted to the rank of first lieutenant.
A 1999 graduate of Gilmer High School in Ellijay, Harris was a leader both as a scholar and an athlete. He was captain of the high school's football team and won a state individual wrestling title in 1999. He was honored as a scholar athlete during the 1999 Peach Bowl and was an Honor Bar Thespian as an actor in the school theater club.
At the University of Georgia, Harris was an active member of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, as well as a volunteer for Watch Dawgs, a student organization dedicated to preventing alcohol-related accidents and incidents by giving students free rides home after a late night in downtown Athens. He was perhaps most visible as a member of UGA's cheerleading squad from 1999 to 2002, where his athletic gifts and his outgoing personality could both be fully utilized. He captained the squad in 2001.
Harris was also one of the inaugural members of the Leonard Leadership Scholars Program, an undergraduate leadership development program launched by the Terry College's Institute for Leadership Advancement in August 2001. The September 11 terrorist attacks happened while Harris was undergoing the initial self-assessment portion of the program, which he later remembered as the point at which he began considering public service through joining the military.
Harris joined UGA's Army ROTC program and after graduating with a degree in finance was commissioned as a second lieutenant. After his initial training as an infantry officer, he was stationed at Fort Benning with the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. Harris called on family and friends, as well as Terry's Leonard Scholars, to help keep his soldiers' morale up with a pen pal program.
In a letter to an Ellijay paper thanking people for their participation, Harris wrote: "It warms my heart to walk into the Army post office and have everyone know me by name because my men are receiving so much mail from you. Your consistent communication reminds each of us soldiers that we are fighting for a country that we love and that loves and supports us."
Harris is the second member of UGA's Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity killed while serving in the military in Iraq. Bradley Arms, a rising junior from Charlottesville, Va., was called to active duty in 2004 with his Marine Reserve unit, shortly after receiving word of his acceptance into the Terry College as an MIS (Management Information Systems) major. Arms was killed during a firefight in Fallujah, Iraq, in November.