WASHINGTON, D.C. — Two U.S. Army 7th Special Forces Group soldiers died Saturday during combat operations in Afghanistan, according to a Sunday news release from the U.S. Department of Defense. The 7th Group is headquartered at Eglin Air Force Base.
Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, 28, of San Antonio, Texas and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez, 28, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, were assigned to the 7th Group‘s 3rd Battalion. Both died “as a result of wounds sustained while engaged in combat operations” in Nangarhar Province in eastern Afghanistan, according to the DoD release.
The ranks listed for the two soldiers represent posthumous promotions, according to the DoD news release.
“The incident is under investigation,” the DoD noted. Investigations are routine in incidents like the one that took the two soldiers‘ lives.
Early Sunday, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense released a statement via Twitter noting that a high-level delegation from the ministry is investigating the incident along with U.S. personnel. A member of the Afghan National Army also was killed, according to the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense.
The circumstances of the 7th Group soldiers‘ deaths are not yet clear, but Col. John Sannes, the group’s commander, reported Saturday that a number of 7th Group troops had been injured or killed earlier that day in Afghanistan.
“The 7th Special Forces Group Headquarters is poised to support the Service Members and their families during this difficult time,” Sannes said in the Saturday statement.
The report of the 7th Group soldiers‘ deaths and injuries appears to coincide with other reports issued by military officials concerning a Saturday incident in Afghanistan involving deaths and injuries among U.S. troops. According to those reports, the incident appears to have been an insider attack.
In an initial U.S. prepared statement on the incident issued Saturday, Col. Sonny Leggett, spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said, “A combined U.S. and Afghan force conducting an operation in Nangarhar Province was engaged by direct fire on Feb. 8. We are assessing the situation and will provide further updates as they become available.”
Later Saturday night, Leggett emailed that ”(t)wo U.S. service members were killed and six others were wounded in a firefight on Feb. 8 in Sherzad district, Nangarhar province. The wounded service members are receiving medical treatment at a U.S. facility.”
In a Twitter post early Sunday on the incident, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense stated that “(a)n individual opened fire on Afghan National Army members and US forces in Sherzad district last night. As a result, unfortunately, one brave #ANA (Afghan National Army) member was martyred and three brave members injured; and two brave Resolute Support (Operation Resolute Support, a NATO-led mission to train and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces) members lost their lives and six brave members were injured.”
A high level #MoD delegation lead by the Chief of Army Staff - Bismillah Waziri is investigating the incident together with the U.S team in #Nangarhar.
Incidents such as this fail to have negative effects on the friendship & spirit of cooperation & between the #ANDSF and...
U.S Military forces. We will continue our fight against terrorism together.
The leadership of the Ministry of Defense extends condolences to the families & friends of all the brave martyred force members and prays for the quick recovery of the injured members of the forces.
“Incidents such as this fail to have negative effects on the friendship & spirit of cooperation & between the #ANDSF and U.S Military forces,” the Twitter statement went on to say. “We will continue our fight against terrorism together.”
The statement also reads, in part, “The leadership of the Ministry of Defense extends condolences to the families & friends of all the brave martyred force members and prays for the quick recovery of the injured members of the forces.”
The Saturday night statement from U.S. Forces-Afghanistan did provide some details on the incident. According to Leggett, “current reports indicate an individual in an Afghan uniform opened fire on the combined U.S. and Afghan force with a machine gun.” The incident occurred immediately following a “key-leader engagement,” a meeting with important local officials, according to the U.S. Forces-Afghanistan statement.
As in the earlier statement, Leggett noted late Saturday night that officials “are still collecting information and the cause or motive behind the attack is unknown at this time. The incident is under investigation.”
The incident comes as the U.S. government is working to bring the 18-year war in Afghanistan to an end.
Northwest Florida and the nation mourn the loss of our fallen soldiers, and we pray that their memory will be honored and cherished forever. (3/3)— Rep. Matt Gaetz (@RepMattGaetz) February 9, 2020
On Sunday, after the identities of the two soldiers who died were released, Rep. Matt Gaetz, whose district includes Eglin AFB, said via Twitter, “Two of our nation‘s most treasured sons gave their lives yesterday in one final act of selfless devotion to our country. Sgt. 1st Class Javier Jaguar Gutierrez and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio Rey Rodriguez -- both assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) fulfilled their oath to defend the United States with their lives while serving in Afghanistan. There is no higher measure of patriotism than what these heroes demonstrated. Northwest Florida and the nation mourn the loss of our fallen soldiers and we pray that their memory will be honored and cherished forever.”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., also issued a statement Sunday, prior to the identification of the two soldiers, saying, “Last night, my office was informed of the tragic news that our operators from 7th Special Forces Group based in Crestview, FL lost their lives in Afghanistan. Our hearts go out to the families and friends that these patriots left behind and my staff and I will be working with the Army to ensure they are taken care of in this difficult time.”
Since August of last year, five 7th Group troops, including the latest fatalities, have died in action in Afghanistan.
In December, Sgt. 1st Class Michael Goble, 33, died from injuries sustained when a Taliban weapons cache exploded as he and other soldiers were clearing it out in the country’s Kunduz Province. In August, 7th Group Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, and 7th Group Master Sgt. Luis Deleon-Figueroa, 31, died as a result of small-arms fire in the country’s Faryab Province.