- Master Sgt. Micheal Riley and Sgt. James Johnston were killed in a close-range firefight in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported.
- Both soldiers were Bronze Star recipients.
- The deaths occurred days before the US is scheduled to attend peace talks with the Taliban.
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Two Army soldiers were killed in close firefight in Afghanistan on June 25, the Pentagon said. The soldiers were fighting Taliban militants, according to The New York Times.
The Pentagon identified the two soldiers as Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, of the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Fort Carson, Colorado and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, of the 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group, in Fort Hood, Texas.
The two soldiers died in southern Uruzgan province, the Pentagon said in an emailed statement. The New York Times reported that Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, reported the location as eastern Wardak province.
Thus far in 2019, there have been nine servicemember fatalities in Afghanistan, according to the Iraq Coalition Casualty Count. The deaths of Riley and Johnston occurred just before a round of peace talks between the US and the Taliban is scheduled to take place in Doha, Qatar starting June 29.
Riley was from Heilbronn, Germany and joined the Army in 2006. The Green Beret veteran earned several awards during his service was on his sixth deployment, according to a release from the US Army Special Operations Command, including the Bronze Star, NATO Medal, and National Defence Service Medal.
“Mike was an experienced Special Forces noncommissioned officer and the veteran of five previous deployments to Afghanistan. We will honour his service and sacrifice as we remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission,” Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, commander of the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), said in a statement provided to INSIDER.
Johnston was “the epitome of what we as Soldiers all aspire to be: intelligent, trained, always ready,” according to Lt. Col. Stacy M. Enyeart, commander of 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal). He joined the Army in 2013 and earned a Bronze Star Medal, a Purple Heart, and an Army Commendation Medal, among awards.
The two soldiers were deployed with Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, part of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan. There are currently about 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan focused primarily on supporting Afghan forces, according to the New York Times.
NATO’s Resolute Support mission did not respond to a request for more information regarding the circumstances of their deaths on Thursday.
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