Alwan told an FBI informant in Bowling Green last year that prior to one Humvee explosion, he had planted improvised explosive devices near a Bayji street detour.
Both the Iraqis and the soldiers described the area as the main road used by American convoys in Bayji.
The Pennsylvania National Guard's Alpha Company of the First Battalion of the 111th Infantry, which included Hedetniemi, lost six soldiers in two separate roadside attacks in the area in August 2005.
Sgt. Brahim Jeffcoat, 25, of Philadelphia, and Spc. Kurt Krout, 43, of Spinnerstown, Pa., died Aug. 6, 2005, when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb near Balad, about 70 miles south of Bayji.
Gennaro Pellegrini Jr., a 31-year-old Philadelphia police officer; Spc. Francis J. Straub, 24, of Philadelphia; Pfc. John Kulick, 35, of Jenkintown, Pa.; and Pfc. Nathaniel DeTample, 19, of Morrisville, Pa., died three days later, when their armored Humvee drove over a culvert containing a bomb and they came under enemy fire near Bayji.
Miller was back in Pennsylvania by then and attended all six funerals.
"It was a rough day, but it was well worth it," Miller said.
Alwan and Hammadi each immigrated to the United States in 2009 after gaining refugee status. Court records do not explain why they were granted that status. For reasons that are also unclear from court records, the FBI started a probe of Alwan in August 2010, using a confidential informant to record conversations with Alwan about a plan to send money and weapons to a fictional al-Qaida operative in Iraq.
The FBI also linked a fingerprint found on an unexploded roadside bomb to Alwan. The two were arrested in May 2011 when the FBI brought the sting to a close.
Hedetniemi and Miller said another soldier ran across the two Iraqi's names and their links to the Bayji area when they scanned Google for news about Task Force Dragoon. They found an Associated Press story about Alwan and Hammadi being charged in Kentucky. After reading the details, Hedetniemi said, they realized that Alwan and Hammadi were fighting in the same area and at the same time as the task force.
Hedetniemi, of East Norton, Pa., said he's spoken with the FBI in Louisville about his time in Bayji, even though investigators wouldn't directly confirm Alwan and Hammadi attacked his unit.
"They were super, super cool in giving me as much information as their operational security could," Hedetniemi said. "It wasn't really a formal interview. It was a friendly telephone conference."
Since then, Hedetniemi and Miller said, emotions have run from elated to concerned to angry.
"I was a little bit worried these guys could get into our country so easily," said Hedetniemi, who now works as a recruiter. "Luckily, these guys never got a chance to do anything stupid."
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