1st Cav soldiers among 4 Americans killed in Afghanistan

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the two soldiers killed last week by a suicide bomber at the Bagram airbase in Afghanistan as from the 1st Cavalry Division based at Fort Hood, Texas.

Army Sgt. John W. Perry, 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 at the airfield north of the capital, Kabul. The soldiers were assigned to Headdquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the statement said.

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Two American contractors also were killed in the blast and 16 other U.S. service members and a Polish service member were injured.

The attacker was a former Taliban militant who had joined the peace process in 2008 and had since taken a job at the base, Bagram District Governor Haji Abdul Shokor Qudosi told ABC News on Sunday.

Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last June. | US Air Force photo by Justyn Freeman

Airmen patrol the flightline perimeter at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, last June. | US Air Force photo by Justyn Freeman

About 14,000 Americans, including service members and contractors, are based at Bagram. The base was closed to Afghan workers immediately following the attack and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul also closed for business.

The attack occurred while U.S. service members at the base were preparing for a five-kilometer race as part of Veterans Day events.

A later statement from Fort Hood said that Perry joined the Army on Jan. 31, 2008, as a Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment (TMDE) maintenance support specialist. He had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since Aug. 21, 2014.

Perry was on his second tour in Afghanistan. He deployed to Afghanistan when the U.S. involvement there was called Operation Enduring Freedom from August 2010 to July 2011. He deployed in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in September 2016.

Perry’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals, one Army Achievement Medal, two Army Good Conduct Medals, National Defense Service Medal, and Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two campaign stars.

He also had received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, three Overseas Service Ribbons, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Combat Action Badge and Driver’s and Mechanic Badge.

Iubelt had been in the Army less than a year, the statement said. He entered the Army on Nov. 23, 2015, as a motor transport operator and had been assigned to 1st Cavalry Division Sustainment Brigade since May 6, 2016. He deployed to Afghanistan in September.

Iubelt’s awards and decorations include the Purple Heart Medal, Bronze Star, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with campaign star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon and Combat Action Badge.

Perry and Iubelt were among about 500 1st Cavalry Division soldiers who deployed to Afghanistan in the late summer of this year in a regular rotation of troops to help train the Afghan military.

The deploying soldiers were part of the Fort Hood division’s headquarters and its sustainment brigade headquarters, Lt. Col. Sunset Belinsky, the 1st Cavalry Division’s division’s spokeswoman, said at the time. They deployed to Bagram Airfield to replace the 10th Mountain Division headquarters, which had served as the planning leader for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan since November of 2015.

The deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel was expected to last about 12 months, Belinsky said. Operation Freedom’s Sentinel is the United States’ continuing mission to train and advise the Afghan National Security Forces in their fight against the Taliban and other insurgent networks.

Maj. Gen. John C. Thomson III, who took command of the 1st Cavalry Division last January, was leading the deployment, taking over duties as the U.S. deputy commanding general for support in Afghanistan.

The deaths of Perry and Iubelt were the second and third in combat for the 1st Cavalry Division in recent weeks. On Oct. 20, Sgt. Douglas J. Riney, 26, of Fairview, Illinois, died in Kabul of wounds received from what was suspected to be an “insider attack” by an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform. American contractor Michael G. Sauro, 40, of McAlester, Oklahoma, also was killed in the incident.

Riney and Sauro had been on a mission for the Afghan Defense Ministry when they drove up to the entry point at an Ammunition Supply Point on the outskirts of Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said in a briefing to the Pentagon late last month.

“They had not started the inspection” when a man wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire, Cleveland said. The gunman was shot dead by Afghan security.

Cleveland said the U.S. could not confirm that the incident was an insider, or “green-on-blue,” attack since the Afghans had yet to identify the gunman.

Riney entered active-duty service in July 2012 as a petroleum supply specialist, the military said. He had been assigned to the Support Squadron, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, at Fort Hood, Texas, since December 2012.

Riney was on his second tour to Afghanistan. His awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal.

Sauro was assigned to the Defense Ammunition Center, McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, in Oklahoma, the Defense Department said. He traveled to Afghanistan in September for his third deployment and was scheduled to return to the U.S. in March.

A U.S. soldier and two other U.S. civilians employed by the Defense Ammunition Center were injured in the incident. The soldier was reported in stable condition at the time. Civilian Richard “Rick” Alford was in stable condition and civilian Rodney Henderson suffered minor injuries, the center said, adding that they will both return to the U.S., The Associated Press reported.

The attack came as the U.S. was proceeding with President Barack Obama’s plan to draw down the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from the current number of about 9,500 to 8,400 by the end of this year.

The drawdown was taking place as the U.S. considers its troop and monetary support under the administration of President-elect Donald Trump for Afghanistan, where the U.S. has been at war for 15 years.

Afghanistan policy was not a main topic of debate between Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton during the campaign.

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