US military officials identified two U.S. service members who were killed Saturday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan.
The two US soldiers were identified as 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia; and 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Aurora, Illinois, the Pentagon said. Both were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
The Taliban took responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which injured two other American soldiers. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.
“When our nation called for its best airborne combat engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation. They lived their motto, ‘Essayons,’ and embodied the values of the All-American engineer,” Col. Art Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, said in a statement. “Their loved ones are now surrounded by a caring community offering comfort and assistance through this difficult time.”
McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012 and after completing Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, he was assigned to the 68th Engineer Company, 62nd Engineer Battalion at Fort Hood, Texas, as a horizontal construction engineer, FOX News reported.
In 2016, he was assigned to the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., where he served as a horizontal construction engineer and later as a squad leader. This was his first combat deployment.
McLaughlin is survived by his wife and four children.
Villalon joined the Army in 2018 and after completing Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training in 2019 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., he was assigned to the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg where he served as a combat engineer. This was also his first combat deployment.
Villalon is survived by his parents.
Both McLaughlin and Villalon received multiple awards and decorations for their service, which included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with “C” Device, the Army Commendation Medal and more, FOX News reported.
More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was the deadliest for U.S. service members since 2014, with 23 American troops killed, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.
Earlier Saturday, both NATO and Afghan officials had confirmed a roadside bomb hit a U.S. army vehicle, without mentioning casualties. In a short statement, a NATO spokesman said that officials were still “assessing the situation and will provide more information as it became available.”
Taliban claims IED attack targeting NATO convoy near Kandahar AB. Attack confirmed by local media as well as Resolute Support Mission. Early reports of at least one NATO soldier (claimed to be from Romania) killed. RS Mission did not confirm any casualty. #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/V08nU0GXLQ
— 🏴☠️ FJ 🏴☠️ (@Natsecjeff) January 11, 2020
An Afghan official said the attack had taken place in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The official was not authorized to speak with media and requested anonymity.