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CAMP COOKE, Iraq — A Louisiana National Guard infantry battalion has suffered its first combat death in Iraq, the Pentagon confirmed Saturday.

First Lt. Christopher W. Barnett, of the 1st Battalion, 156th Infantry Regiment, 256th Brigade Combat Team, was killed by a roadside bomb Thursday on the outskirts of Baghdad, a Department of Defense release said.

The incident occurred before 8 a.m. Thursday and is under investigation, officials said.

Barnett, 32, was from Baton Rouge, La.

The death hit the close-knit unit, known as Tiger Brigade and largely based out of Camp Liberty, especially hard because it came so close to Christmas. According to the Shreveport Times, Barnett’s friends and family in Livingston Parish were deeply saddened by the news.

“Chris was a wonderful, happy man who loved to cut up,” Tina McCormic, whose son Timothy is also a lieutenant in Barnett’s unit, told the paper. McCormic grieved by looking at photographs of Barnett and her son together before they headed to Iraq, “looking forward to where they were going,” the paper quoted her as saying.

Funeral details for Barnett are pending, the newspaper reported. Officials from the 256th are planning a memorial service in Iraq.

The 256th Brigade Combat Team was the first unit to arrive in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom III, as the Pentagon calls the third large-scale rotation of troops to the country. Another battalion attached to the 256th, the 1st Battalion, 69th Infantry from New York, has suffered four deaths so far in its yearlong tour.

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