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Paratroopers deployed to Middle East after Baghdad attack have returned home, officials say

Westlake Legal Group 82nd-Airborne-Division-3 Paratroopers deployed to Middle East after Baghdad attack have returned home, officials say Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/foreign-policy/state-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 8af5edcc-1f95-54a7-8741-c64086aa4d7d

The U.S. Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division said 800 paratroopers have returned home to Fort Bragg, N.C., on Thursday after a hasty deployment to the Middle East following the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad last year.

The announcement came on the same day the State Department slapped new sanctions on Iran ahead of parliamentary elections on Friday.

Roughly 80,000 U.S. troops remain in the Middle East, including aboard warships stationed at sea.

IRAN BELIEVED TO POSSESS MORE THAN 2,000 BALLISTIC MISSILES, PENTAGON OFFICIALS SAY

In late December 2019, dozens of Iraqi Shiite militia supporters gained entry to the embassy compound in Baghdad after reportedly smashing down a gate and storming inside. The outburst came amid protests over U.S. airstrikes in the region.

The 82nd Airborne’s Twitter account sent out a message on Thursday saluting the troops with photos of their arrival back home and wished them many happy returns.

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“Today we welcomed home the first @Strike_Hold #Paratroopers from their deployment to @CENTCOM [Central Commend],” the tweet read. “When our Nation called, the Immediate Response Force answered by conducting a no-notice deployment.

It added: “The Division is proud of you all and wishes a warm #WelcomeHome. #Airborne #ATW.”

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson and Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group 82nd-Airborne-Division-3 Paratroopers deployed to Middle East after Baghdad attack have returned home, officials say Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/foreign-policy/state-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 8af5edcc-1f95-54a7-8741-c64086aa4d7d   Westlake Legal Group 82nd-Airborne-Division-3 Paratroopers deployed to Middle East after Baghdad attack have returned home, officials say Nick Givas fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/world-regions/iraq fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/foreign-policy/state-department fox news fnc/us fnc article 8af5edcc-1f95-54a7-8741-c64086aa4d7d

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Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack identified, were part of special forces group

Two U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers who were killed when American and Afghan troops were fired on during a mission in Afghanistan were identified by the Pentagon on Sunday.

The soldiers, both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, were Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez of San Antonio, Texas and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez of Las Cruces, N.M.

Both soldiers, who were both posthumously promoted, were 28 years old, according to the Department of Defense. U.S. Special Forces soldiers are also called Green Berets.

AFGHANISTAN ‘INSIDER ATTACK’ LEAVES 2 US SOLDIERS DEAD, 6 WOUNDED

The two were killed Saturday after they wounded up in a firefight with a gunman that injured six others in the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan.

“Sgt. 1st Class Gutierrez was a warrior that exemplified selfless service and a commitment to the mission, both values that we embody here in the 7th Special Forces Group,”  Col. John W. Sannes, 7th Special Forces Group Commander said in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group AfghanistanSplit_1 Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack identified, were part of special forces group Travis Fedschun fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/world/conflicts fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/world fnc b8798764-5511-5b73-b06a-435f7919539f article

Antonio R. Rodriguez and Javier J. Gutierrez, both 28, were killed in Afghanistan on Saturday. (Department of Defense)

Gutierrez enlisted in the Army in 2009 as an infantryman and stationed at Fort Bragg. In 2012, he attended the Special Forces Assessment and Selection at Fort Bragg and was selected to attend the Special Forces Qualification Course, graduating in 2015 as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant. He was previously deployed once to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Our priority now is to take care of his family and teammates, we will provide the best possible care possible during these trying times,” Sannes said.

Rodriguez also enlisted with the Army in 2009 and completed training at Fort Benning in Georgia before it was assigned to the 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He deployed eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment and twice with 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

“Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit,” Sannes said. “Here at the Red Empire, we take care of our own, and Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez’ family will forever be a part of us, we will assist them in any way we can to help them through these trying times.”

An Afghan defense ministry official, who was not identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told the Associated Press the shooter was an Afghan soldier who had argued with the U.S. forces before opening fire. He was not a Taliban infiltrator, the official said.

The U.S. military, however, has not officially called the incident an “insider attack,” because the motive remains unclear and the shooter “was not one of the soldiers on the patrol,” a U.S. defense official told Fox News. Defense officials said Sunday the attack remains under investigation.

Such attacks have been frequent occurrences in the nearly two decades U.S. troops have been deployed in the country. In 2012, for example, 25 percent of American military deaths in Afghanistan were caused by allied Afghan forces, military officials have said.

On Saturday, military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett issued in a statement saying those involved in the most recent attack were “engaged by direct firing.”

JIM HANSON: GET OUT OF AFGHANISTAN — A CLEAR, SPECIFIC DECLARATION WOULD LET US LEAVE AND PUT OUR ENEMIES ON NOTICE

In addition to the Taliban, “we are not ruling out ISIS” being responsible for the attack, the defense official told Fox News. Nangarhar Province — where the attack took place — is home to roughly 200 fighters affiliated with the Islamic State.

U.S. special forces soldiers led the mission at the district center in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday afternoon. Typically, special forces will conduct these types of missions with conventional Army infantry soldiers for added security on the perimeter. They also partner with Afghan soldiers.

Since Jan.1, six U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan, including the two soldiers killed Saturday. Last year, 22 U.S. service members were killed in action there.

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The Trump administration is weighing a decision to remove up to 4,000 US troops from Afghanistan.

There are currently roughly 12,000 US troops deployed there.

At the height of US military involvement in 2010, there were over 100,000 Americans deployed to Afghanistan and nearly 500 killed that year.

Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson, Nick Givas, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group AfghanistanSplit_1 Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack identified, were part of special forces group Travis Fedschun fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/world/conflicts fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/world fnc b8798764-5511-5b73-b06a-435f7919539f article   Westlake Legal Group AfghanistanSplit_1 Army soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack identified, were part of special forces group Travis Fedschun fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/world/conflicts fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/world fnc b8798764-5511-5b73-b06a-435f7919539f article

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Space Force vice commander: Service members won’t be called ‘spacemen’

Westlake Legal Group Space-Force-Logo Space Force vice commander: Service members won't be called 'spacemen' Louis Casiano fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military/air-force fox-news/us/military fox-news/science/air-and-space fox news fnc/politics fnc article 73e41cc8-b56f-587a-b2de-f1370a990f16

Members of the newly created Space Force still don’t have a title, officials said Wednesday, while also saying they won’t be referred to as “spacemen.”

Leaders have been conducting research on what to call the troops, said Lt. Gen. David Thompson, vice commander of the Space Force, Military Times reported.

“We need to go through a process with Congress to provide authorization for specific individuals to transfer,” he said at an event while speaking to reporters.

The sixth branch of the armed forces has around 16,000 Air Force service members and civilians assigned to it. Thompson said plans will be made to integrate soldiers, sailors and Marines who end their enlistments or resign their officer commissions with their current branches of service and opt to enter the Space Force.

The Air Force will transfer certain personnel to the new branch in the fiscal year 2021, with the Army and Navy to follow the year after.

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“We also want to make absolutely sure that when these individuals transfer in, that all of that is in place,” Thompson said.

Westlake Legal Group Space-Force-Logo Space Force vice commander: Service members won't be called 'spacemen' Louis Casiano fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military/air-force fox-news/us/military fox-news/science/air-and-space fox news fnc/politics fnc article 73e41cc8-b56f-587a-b2de-f1370a990f16   Westlake Legal Group Space-Force-Logo Space Force vice commander: Service members won't be called 'spacemen' Louis Casiano fox-news/us/military/navy fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military/air-force fox-news/us/military fox-news/science/air-and-space fox news fnc/politics fnc article 73e41cc8-b56f-587a-b2de-f1370a990f16

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Trump surprises military family with reunion at State of the Union address

President Trump‘s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, his last prior to November’s presidential election, was full of surprises.

Mid-speech, the president awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to an emotional Rush Limbaugh, 69, who revealed an advanced lung cancer diagnosis to his listeners on Monday. First lady Melania Trump, seated next to the conservative radio host, presented the medal to Limbaugh, tying it around his neck.

But perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening came when Trump announced that Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams — currently on his fourth deployment to the Middle East — was actually in the House chamber, where his wife, Amy Williams of Fort Bragg, N.C., was in attendance as one of the president’s guests, along with their two children.

Townsend Williams walked down the stairs in the gallery to thunderous applause in a military homecoming surprise that neither is likely to forget.

RUSH LIMBAUGH RECEIVES PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM AT TRUMP’S STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

Westlake Legal Group sergeant-cropped-1104pm Trump surprises military family with reunion at State of the Union address Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/state-of-the-union fox news fnc/us fnc d8b5a315-b212-593f-ae33-44292a66d59a article

As Amy Williams watches, her husband Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, greets first Lady Melania Trump after he surprised her by appearing at the State of the Union address by President Donald Trump in a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020. Their children Rowan, 3, and Elliana, watch. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

TRUMP HONORS ONE OF THE LAST SURVIVING TUSKEGEE AIRMEN DURING STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS

“War places a heavy burden on our nation’s extraordinary military families, especially spouses like Amy Williams from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and her two children — 6-year-old Elliana and 3-year-old Rowan,” Trump had said.

“Amy works full-time, and volunteers countless hours helping other military families,” Trump continued. “For the past seven months, she has done it all while her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Townsend Williams, is in Afghanistan on his fourth deployment to the Middle East,” the president said. “Amy’s kids have not seen their father’s face in many months. Amy, your family’s sacrifice makes it possible for all of our families to live in safety and peace — we thank you.”

Townsend Williams then moved quickly down the aisle to embrace his children and wife.

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During his address, President Trump also pressed the joint session of Congress to pass a bill that would ban abortions in late pregnancy and drew attention to a 2-year-old girl who was born at 22 weeks gestation and was able to survive thanks to medical breakthroughs.

“Whether we are Republican, Democrat or independent, surely we must all agree that every human life is a sacred gift from God,” Trump said.

Westlake Legal Group sergeant-cropped-1104pm Trump surprises military family with reunion at State of the Union address Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/state-of-the-union fox news fnc/us fnc d8b5a315-b212-593f-ae33-44292a66d59a article   Westlake Legal Group sergeant-cropped-1104pm Trump surprises military family with reunion at State of the Union address Jack Durschlag fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/person/donald-trump fox-news/news-events/state-of-the-union fox news fnc/us fnc d8b5a315-b212-593f-ae33-44292a66d59a article

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Soldier killed in Arizona ‘free fall’ exercise is 3rd military fatality from Chicago area in less than 2 weeks

U.S. Army officials have identified the soldier who was killed in Arizona on Tuesday during a “free fall” parachute training exercise.

Fort Bragg Master Sgt. Nathan Goodman, 36, from the Chicago suburb of Lansing, Ill., died near Eloy, Ariz., officials said.

Goodman had enlisted in the Army in 2002. His service included four deployments to Afghanistan, one to Iraq, two to Africa and one to Kyrgyzstan, Chicago’s WLS-TV reported.

ARMY SAYS SOLDIER DIED IN ARIZONA DURING ‘FREE FALL’ PARACHUTING EXERCISE

“Nathan was a beloved member of 3rd Special Forces Group and an exceptional leader in the Special Operations community,” Col. Nathan Prussian, commander of the 3rd Special Forces Group’s 2nd Battalion, said in a statement.

Westlake Legal Group good55 Soldier killed in Arizona ‘free fall’ exercise is 3rd military fatality from Chicago area in less than 2 weeks fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/arizona fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/illinois fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc f6b73cd7-fdae-5f0a-8ddb-937eba790546 Dom Calicchio article

Fort Bragg Master Sgt. Nathan Goodman, 36, from the Chicago suburb of Lansing, Ill., died Tuesday near Eloy, Ariz., officials said.

He became the third U.S. military fatality from the Chicago area in less than two weeks.

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Previously, Private First Class Miguel Villalon, 21, of Aurora, Ill., was one of two soldiers killed Saturday in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

Earlier in January, Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr. of Hazel Crest, Ill., was among three Americans killed when Al-Shabab extremists attacked a base in Kenya where U.S. and Kenyan troops were stationed.

Westlake Legal Group good55 Soldier killed in Arizona ‘free fall’ exercise is 3rd military fatality from Chicago area in less than 2 weeks fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/arizona fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/illinois fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc f6b73cd7-fdae-5f0a-8ddb-937eba790546 Dom Calicchio article   Westlake Legal Group good55 Soldier killed in Arizona ‘free fall’ exercise is 3rd military fatality from Chicago area in less than 2 weeks fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/arizona fox-news/us/us-regions/midwest/illinois fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox news fnc/us fnc f6b73cd7-fdae-5f0a-8ddb-937eba790546 Dom Calicchio article

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US military families receiving ‘menacing’ messages: ‘Leave the Middle East. Go back to your country’

Relatives of U.S. paratroopers deployed to Kuwait earlier this month, amid heightening tensions with Iran, have been receiving “menacing” messages on social media, prompting an alert this week from the U.S. Army to family members of service members, according to reports.

The 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, N.C., reminded family members to limit who is able to see social media posts after some received pro-Iranian messages that in one message warned them to “Go back to your country,” according to The Military Times.

“Families have reported instances where they have received unsolicited contact with some menacing messaging,” Lt. Col. Mike Burns, a division spokesman, told The Times.

IRANIAN CYBERATTACKS COULD CAUSE ‘REAL DAMAGE,’ WARNS CYBERSECURITY EXPERT

One Instagram message obtained by The Times seemed particularly threatening.

“If you like your life and you want to see your family again, pack up your stuff right now and leave the Middle East,” the message read. “Go back to your country. You and your terrorist clown president brought nothing but terrorism. You fools underestimate the power of Iran. The recent attack on your [expletive] bases was just a little taste of our power. By killing our general, you dug your own grave. Before having more dead bodies, just leave the region for good and never look back.”

“You and your terrorist clown president brought nothing but terrorism. You fools underestimate the power of Iran.”

— Instagram message sent to U.S. military families

The Times reported there was no evidence the message came from the Iranian government, and it was a typical “psychological operations-styled warning.”

Some of the other messages included fake kidnapping threats, the outlet reported.

The division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team was told to leave behind any personal communication devices that could be compromised when they deployed in early January.

The decision was made so soldiers weren’t put at risk,” Burns told The Times.

Westlake Legal Group AP20006730882541 US military families receiving 'menacing' messages: 'Leave the Middle East. Go back to your country' fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/tech/topics/cybercrime fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 79262787-765a-5f72-a215-b3ea3581af0c

​​​​​​​Paratroopers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division walk as they prepare equipment and load aircraft bound for the U.S. Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragg, N.C., Jan. 4, 2020. (Spc. Hubert Delany III/U.S. Army via AP, File)

The Army also reminded family members to never post personal details that could help nefarious actors determine where they are and to curb talking about their associations with the military online, WTSP-TV of St. Petersburg, Fla., reported.

The Department of Homeland Security has warned of potential cyber-attacks by the Iranian government in the wake of the U.S. airstrike that killed top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.

A few days after Soleimani’s death, the Federal Depository Library Program’s website was hacked by a pro-Iranian group that defaced the U.S. government website with anti-American, pro-Iranian images.

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The website was back up within about 24 hours, The Washington Post reported.

Westlake Legal Group AP20006730882541 US military families receiving 'menacing' messages: 'Leave the Middle East. Go back to your country' fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/tech/topics/cybercrime fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 79262787-765a-5f72-a215-b3ea3581af0c   Westlake Legal Group AP20006730882541 US military families receiving 'menacing' messages: 'Leave the Middle East. Go back to your country' fox-news/world/world-regions/middle-east fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/tech/topics/cybercrime fox news fnc/us fnc Brie Stimson article 79262787-765a-5f72-a215-b3ea3581af0c

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US mulls sending more missile-defense systems to Middle East: report

Just over a week after Iran fired 16 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where U.S. troops were stationed, the Pentagon is considering sending more missile-defense systems and other capabilities to the Middle East, according to a report.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy discussed the proposals with reporters Wednesday at a meeting of the Defense Writers Group, Military.com reported.

KT MCFARLAND ON IRAN LEADER’S LATEST THREATS: ‘THEY DON’T HAVE A LOT OF OPTIONS’

“They are a very capable enemy,” McCarthy said of Iran. “They have capabilities that can strike and hit Americans, so we are looking at additional capabilities that we could send to the region.”

“They are a very capable enemy. They have capabilities that can strike and hit Americans, so we are looking at additional capabilities that we could send to the region.”

— U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy

But McCarthy declined to be specific about exactly which technologies were under consideration.

“It could be a variety of enablers like missile defense, so we are looking at that,” he told the news outlet.

The attacks launched by Iran targeted the Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq as well as a separate base at Erbil. U.S. officials said 11 missiles struck Al-Assad, one struck Erbil and four missiles malfunctioned.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-afbd20d1b84b44e0b9edaf06b90af749 US mulls sending more missile-defense systems to Middle East: report fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox-news/politics/defense fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 5433f8f0-9e5b-5178-a011-2850a3fca79d

​​​​​​​Missiles are fired from Kermanshah in western Iran targeting the Islamic State group in Syria, in this photo released by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Oct. 1, 2018. (Sepahnews via Associated Press)

No U.S. casualties were reported.

The missile strikes Jan. 7 were viewed as Iran’s response to a U.S. drone strike four days earlier in Baghdad that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has continued using strong rhetoric against the West in the aftermath of last week’s attacks.

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On Wednesday, Rouhani warned in a televised speech that European forces, in addition to U.S. troops, “could be in danger” after leaders of Britain, France and Germany initiated a so-called “dispute process” as spelled out in the 2015 Iran nuclear deal negotiated with the West during the Obama administration.

The European leaders have argued that Iran has been violating terms of the pact, which could lead to the restoration of U.N. sanctions against the country.

Fox News’ Danielle Wallace contributed to this story.

Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-afbd20d1b84b44e0b9edaf06b90af749 US mulls sending more missile-defense systems to Middle East: report fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox-news/politics/defense fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 5433f8f0-9e5b-5178-a011-2850a3fca79d   Westlake Legal Group ContentBroker_contentid-afbd20d1b84b44e0b9edaf06b90af749 US mulls sending more missile-defense systems to Middle East: report fox-news/world/conflicts/iran fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/us/military fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox-news/politics/defense fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio article 5433f8f0-9e5b-5178-a011-2850a3fca79d

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US soldiers killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast identified

Military officials identified the two U.S. service members supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel who were killed Saturday after an improvised explosive device (IED) hit their vehicle in southern Afghanistan.

The Pentagon announced in a statement that the two soldiers killed were 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia; and 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Joliet, Illinois.

Both soldiers were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.

“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.”

Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the 82nd Airborne Division Commander, added in a statement, “These paratroopers represent the very best of our nation and our army. Three-time volunteers, they went when our nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”

Westlake Legal Group Villalon-McLaughlin US soldiers killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast identified Lucas Tomlinson Frank Miles fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox news fnc/world fnc article abd1d2be-b9f6-50a0-b59b-58474e59ae4e

Military officials identified the two soldiers killed as 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon of Joliet, Illinois, left; and 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin of Newport News, Virginia. Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (82nd Airborne Division)

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.  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’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with “C” Device, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Combat Action Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge. He was a 2018 graduate of the U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School Jumpmaster Course.

McLaughlin was 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 his first combat deployment.

Villalon’s awards and decorations included the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with “C” Device, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge.

Villalon was survived by his parents.

The Taliban took responsibility for Saturday’s attack, which injured two other American soldiers. A Taliban spokesman said it occurred in the southern Kandahar province.

The Taliban have controlled or held sway over roughly half of Afghanistan. The militants have continued to stage near-daily attacks targeting Afghan and U.S. forces, even as they’ve held peace talks with the U.S.

Scores of Afghan civilians also have been killed in the crossfire or by roadside bombs planted by militants.

The U.S. and Taliban, whose government had harbored Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, have been in on-again, off-again negotiations to bring an end to 18 years of fighting, said to be the longest war in American history.

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Over 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year, 23 American troops were killed.

The U.S. has had about 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, with about 5,000 of them doing counterterrorism missions. The have been part of a broader NATO mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group Villalon-McLaughlin US soldiers killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast identified Lucas Tomlinson Frank Miles fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox news fnc/world fnc article abd1d2be-b9f6-50a0-b59b-58474e59ae4e   Westlake Legal Group Villalon-McLaughlin US soldiers killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb blast identified Lucas Tomlinson Frank Miles fox-news/world/world-regions/asia fox-news/world/terrorism fox-news/world/conflicts/afghanistan fox-news/us/military/army fox-news/politics/defense/pentagon fox news fnc/world fnc article abd1d2be-b9f6-50a0-b59b-58474e59ae4e

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Illinois service member ID’d as one of two killed in Afghanistan by IED

A 21-year-old soldier from Illinois has been identified as one of two U.S. military personnel killed Saturday in Afghanistan.

Miguel Villalon was in a vehicle that was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Kandahar province, according to a Twitter message posted by the City of Aurora.

2 US SERVICE MEMBERS KILLED BY ROADSIDE BOMB IN AFGHANISTAN

The other service member killed in the attack, for which the Taliban took immediate responsibility, has not yet been identified.

“Tonight, the Aurora community mourns the heartbreaking loss of Miguel Vallalon, 21,” the post reads. “He was one of two U.S. service members who passed away today while serving in Afghanistan. A former student at East Aurora High School, Miguel was proud to serve in the United States Army.”

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, who is an Army veteran, also commented on Villalon’s passing.

“Our prayers and condolences are with the Villalon family during this tragic time,” Irvin said in a statement, according to WBBM-TV of Chicago. “Miguel was a young soldier with dreams for the future and a desire to make a difference in the world today.

“Miguel was a young soldier with dreams for the future and a desire to make a difference in the world today.”

— Aurora, Ill., Mayor Richard Irvin

“Much like all of us who have left from our hometown of Aurora to serve our country, our goal is to do our job well and return to our family and friends,” Irvin continued. “Sadly, Miguel made the ultimate sacrifice as he protected our freedom from the front lines. The City of Lights shines much dimmer because of this loss. We’ll stand with his family and provide support. Godspeed, young soldier.”

Saturday’s tragedy hit the Chicago area especially hard because just days earlier, Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, of Hazel Crest, Ill., was identified as the service member who was killed Jan. 5 in a terror attack against U.S. and Kenyan forces in Kenya.

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Army Specialist Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, of Hazel Crest, Ill., was identified as the service member who was killed Jan. 5 in a terror attack in Kenya.

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More than 2,400 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan. Last year was one of the deadliest for the United States, with 23 American troops killed, even as Washington engaged in peace talks with the Taliban.

About 2,000 international forces are currently stationed in Afghanistan, focused on training and advising Afghan security forces, with a portion focused on counterterrorism, Stars and Stripes reported.

Fox News’ Louis Casiano and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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Former NFL player dons different uniform, lives childhood dream in Army

Former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Jimmy Legree said Saturday that his dream was always to serve his country as a soldier.

Legree, appearing on “Fox & Friends,” said he envisioned a career in the military from the time he was a child transfixed by war movies.

“I always wanted to be a part of that military family,” he said.

FORMER ARIZONA CARDINALS’ JIMMY LEGREE ENLISTS IN ARMY, FULFILLING CHILDHOOD GOAL

Legree, 28, started basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma in December after enlisting in the Army as a communications specialist. So far, he said, his transition from pro athlete to soldier has been a “good journey.”

“I’m excited to be here,” Legree said. “And excited to see what my future is going to be in the military lifestyle.”

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Jimmy Legree, 28, began basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma back in December after enlisting in the Army to pursue a career as a communications specialist – something he says was a childhood goal. (U.S. Army)

Legree, a 2013 graduate of the University of South Carolina, said he hopes to bring dedication, a strong work ethic, resilience and focus to his budding military career.

He told “Fox & Friends” hosts Dean Cain and Pete Hegseth that he joined the Army to fight for his country.

“I always wanted that,” he said.

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Legree was with the Cardinals in 2014 and 2015, when he made preseason appearances. He was previously signed by the Seattle Seahawks for a short time in 2014.

While some of his fellow soldiers rib him about his time in the NFL, jokingly asking for autographs, for the most part he’s just one of them.

“I’m not special or anything like that,” Legree said.

He is currently assigned to D Battery, 1st Battalion, 19th Field Artillery. He graduates from basic training on Feb. 21 and will then head to Fort Gordon in Georgia to learn more adanced skills.

Fox News’ Paulina Dedaj contributed to this report.

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