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Lewis-McChord Stryker unit sustains 1st fatality in latest deployment

A Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade that just this month hit the ground in Afghanistan has lost the first soldier of this deployment.

Staff Sgt. Rayvon Battle Jr., 25, of Rocky Mount, N.C., died Tuesday in Kandahar province, the Defense Department announced Friday.

The Army did not release information about the manner of Battle’s death.

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Battle was a squad leader in the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. His unit, the 38th Engineer Company, is charged with clearing roads of enemy mines so convoys can drive safely in dangerous territory.

Battle died on his third combat tour, having twice deployed to Iraq. He joined the Army in June 2005 and arrived at Lewis-McChord later that year. He was first assigned as a gunner for the 1st Special Forces Group support battalion and deployed with that unit in 2008-09, records show. Seven months after his return, he transferred to the 4th Brigade and went back to Iraq in 2010.

About 3,000 soldiers from the 4th Brigade deployed this fall for a nine-month assignment to southern Afghanistan, mostly in Kandahar province. The brigade is in the process of replacing another Lewis-McChord Stryker unit: the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

The 4th Brigade’s tour is expected to be the last major deployment for a Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The first month of a deployment is typically a challenging time as soldiers learn about their surroundings and set up their bases for months in a combat zone.

Last year, Battle spoke with an Army writer at a training exercise in Yakima before the 4th Brigade received its orders for Afghanistan.

At the time, he was practicing demolition techniques that combat engineers had neglected during years of focusing on clearing roads in Iraq.

He seemed to enjoy the variety of assignments that fall to combat engineers.

“It’s a balance of our job,” he said. “With route clearance, we ... get movement for things and people to go places. Another part of our job is demolitions, which we don’t get to do a lot.”

His death is Lewis-McChord’s 33rd fatality in Afghanistan this year.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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