Pentagon Names Soldiers Killed In Afghan Outpost Fight

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The Pentagon Wednesday announced the names of the remaining four of eight U.S. soldiers killed Saturday in a fierce fight with insurgents at a remote eastern Afghanistan outpost. The other four were named earlier this week.

The Defense Department identified the dead soldiers as Spc. Stephan L. Mace, 21, of Lovettsville, Virginia; Staff Sgt. Vernon W. Martin, 25, of Savannah, Georgia; Sgt. Justin T. Gallegos, 27, of Tucson, Arizona; and Sgt. Joshua M. Hardt, 24, of Applegate, California.

Sgt. Joshua J. Kirk of South Portland, Maine; Spc. Michael P. Scusa of Villas, New Jersey; Spc. Christopher T. Griffin of Kincheloe, Michigan; and Pfc. Kevin C. Thomson of Reno, Nevada, were previously identified. Their bodies were flown back to the United States Tuesday.

All eight were assigned to the 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, based at Fort Carson, Colorado.

Saturday’s battle saw Taliban insurgents at one point surging past the outer perimeter of Forward Operating Base Keating in Afghanistan’s Kamdesh District. The battle lasted about 12 hours, with the most ferocious fighting raging for about seven hours. The base, in a valley, is surrounded by ridge lines where the insurgents were able to fire down at U.S. and Afghan troops.

The facility had been scheduled to be closed within days, CNN has learned. The closing is part of a wider effort by the top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, to cede remote outposts and consolidate troops in more populated areas to better protect Afghan civilians.

The United States now believes about 200 insurgents — mostly local fighters with some Taliban organizers and leaders — had been planning the attack for days, hiding mortars, rockets and heavy machine guns in the mountains. Sources tell CNN that the Taliban may have been watching the troops make preparations to depart and launched their attack at a time of
vulnerability.

– CNN’s Barbara Starr and Adam Levine contributed to this report.


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