Afghanistan: Remembering the fallen of 2018
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 29, 2018
Note: This article has been corrected.
KABUL, Afghanistan — Fifteen American servicemembers were killed in Afghanistan in 2018 as the longest war in U.S. history began its 18th year in October.
All but two fatalities were combat-related. Relatively few of the 14,000 U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan go into combat or serve near the front lines, as they assist NATO’s training and advising mission. However, some do work within a separate U.S. counterterrorism mission that targets groups like al-Qaida and the local Islamic State affiliate.
Many of the servicemembers who died in Afghanistan this year were from elite units.
The deadliest single incident occurred in November, when four troops were killed by a roadside bomb in central Ghazni province. One of the four, Army Sgt. Jason M. McClary, died after being evacuated to Germany for medical treatment. Another, Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, was the first airman to die in combat in Afghanistan since 2015. About 2,400 American military personnel have been killed since the war began in 2001.
Army Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Mihail Golin, 34, was killed in a New Year’s Day firefight in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province. Golin, of Fort Lee, N.J., was assigned to the Fort Carson, Colo.-based B Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group.
The weapons sergeant was born in Latvia and moved to the U.S. in 2004. He enlisted in the Army in 2005. He was on his fourth deployment to Afghanistan when he was killed.
He received the Purple Heart with one oak leaf cluster, an Army Commendation Medal with two oak leaf clusters and an Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, among others.
Army Spc. Gabriel D. Conde, 22, of Loveland, Colo., was killed by small arms fire on April 30, during a firefight in Kapisa province.
He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division stationed at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska. Conde’s family said he had a calling to be a warrior.
“I feel very proud of who he is,” his mother Donna Conde told Denver’s Fox 31 after her son’s death. “He is the kind of son any mother would be proud to have.”
Among his awards and honors were a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with valor, which were awarded posthumously for battlefield heroism.
Army Cpl. Joseph Maciel, 20, was killed in an apparent insider attack in Tirin Kot district in Uruzgan province on July 7.
Originally from South Gate, Calif., Maciel was assigned to the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade. Maciel served in the Army for two years and was assigned to Fort Benning, Ga.
He was described as a soldier beloved by his colleagues and dedicated to the mission. His decorations include the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Andrew Celiz, 32, died of a wound sustained while evacuating an injured Afghan soldier in eastern Paktia province on July 12.
The mortar platoon sergeant was from Summerville, S.C., and was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, at Hunter Army Airfield, Ga. Regiment commander Col. Brandon Tegtmeier described Celiz as “a national treasure who led his Rangers with passion, competence and an infectiously positive attitude no matter the situation.”
Celiz was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service Medal.
Green Beret Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, from Waikoloa, Hawaii, died on Aug. 8 from improvised explosive device wounds received the day before while on patrol in southern Helmand province.
Transfiguracion was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. He was promoted posthumously to sergeant first class and was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.
Transfiguracion was described by his fellow soldiers as a dynamic leader and trusted professional. He is survived by his wife and two children, a son and a daughter.
Army Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Bolyard, 42, was killed by an insider attack at a forward operating base in eastern Logar province on Sept. 3.
Originally from Thornton, W. Va., Bolyard was described as a soldier who always kept his cool under pressure. He was a senior noncommissioned officer in 3rd Squadron, 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade, at Fort Benning, Ga., and received six Bronze Star medals, including two with valor, during a 24-year career and seven deployments.
Bolyard is survived by his wife and three children.
Army Staff Sgt. Diobanjo S. Sanagustin, 32, died from a noncombat injury at Bagram Air Field on Sept. 4.
The native of National City, Calif., joined the Army as an infantryman in 2007. He deployed three times — to Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division. He was a squad leader in Bravo Company.
“He made a lasting impact on the Manchu formation and we will forever cherish his memory,” said Lt. Col. David Uthlaut, commander of 4th Battalion.
Sanagustin’s awards and decorations include two Army Commendation Medals, seven Army Achievement Medals, two Iraq Campaign Medals with campaign star and the Expert Infantryman’s Badge.
Army Spc. James A. Slape, 23, of Morehead City, N.C., was killed by an IED blast in southern Helmand province on Oct. 4.
He was promoted posthumously to sergeant. At the time of his death, Slape was clearing an area of explosives. Slape was assigned to the 430th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 60th Troop Command, North Carolina Army National Guard, based in Washington, N.C.
“We honor his courage, his selfless service,” said Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, the North Carolina National Guard adjutant.
US Army National Guard Maj. Brent Taylor, 39, was killed during an insider attack in Kabul on Nov. 3.
Taylor was the mayor of North Ogden, Utah at the time of his death. He had a “profound influence” on the community, according to a statement by the local government. “He was the best of men with the ability to see potential and possibility in everything around him,” the statement said. “We feel blessed to have had him as our mayor.”
Taylor served twice in Iraq as a convoy security commander and then as an adviser to the Iraqi intelligence agency. He had deployed previously to Afghanistan as a combat advisor to the Afghan Border Police. He is survived by his wife and seven children.
Army Sgt. Leandro A.S. Jasso, 25, was mortally wounded during a firefight with al-Qaida forces in western Nimruz province on Nov. 24.
He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. Jasso enlisted in the Army in 2012 and became an accomplished soldier completing the Basic Airborne Course, earning the Combat Infantryman’s Badge and the Ranger tab.
“Sgt. Hasso was a humble professional who placed mission first, lived the Ranger Creed and will be deeply missed,” said Lt. Col. Rob McChrystal, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Dylan J. Elchin, 25, was killed by a roadside bomb in central Ghazni province on Nov. 27, an attack that claimed the lives of three other U.S. servicemembers. Elchin, of Hookstown, Pa., was the only airman killed in Afghanistan in 2018 and was on his first deployment.
He was a combat controller assigned to the 26th Special Tactics Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Elchin was described by his family as a daredevil who was driven to succeed in the Air Force. He was planning to marry his fiancee when he finished his deployment.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor, the Air Force Commendation Medal and the Air Force Combat Action Medal. “He’s the whole family’s hero,” said his brother, Aaron.
Army Capt. Andrew Patrick Ross, 29, was killed by a roadside bomb in central Ghazni province on Nov. 27, an attack that claimed the lives of three other U.S. servicemembers. Ross, of Lexington, Va., was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C. The West Point graduate had more than seven years of service in the Army and was on his second overseas tour.
Ross’ wife, Felicia, called him “the most perfect man, love of my life.”
His honors and decorations include two Bronze Star Medals, a Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal and the National Defense Service Medal, amoung others.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Michael Emond, 39, was killed by a roadside bomb in central Ghazni province on Nov. 27, an attack that claimed the lives of three other U.S. servicemembers. The Boston native, had served more than two decades in the Army and Marine Corps and was on his seventh overseas tour when he died.
He posthumously was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart and the Meritorious Service Medal.
A husband and father of three young girls from Brush Prairie, Wash., Emond was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg, N.C. He helped found Massachusetts Fallen Heroes, which supports veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and Gold Star families from his home state.
“He was the bedrock of the organization,” said Dan Magoon, the foundation’s executive director.
Army Sgt. Jason Mitchell McClary, 24, of Export, Pa., died on Dec. 2 in Landstuhl, Germany, from wounds sustained during a roadside bomb attack in Afghanistan’s central Ghazni province.
Three other U.S. troops were killed by the blast. McClary, an infantryman, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo.
“He epitomizes what it is to be a professional, a warrior and a soldier,” McClary’s regimental commander Lt. Col. Christopher Roberts said.
McClary’s awards and decorations include two Purple Heart medals, three Army Commendation Medals, including one with valor and one for combat, among others. He is survived by his wife and two sons.
Army Pfc. Joshua Mikeasky was killed in a noncombat incident at Bagram Air Field on Dec. 13.
He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 31st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division from Fort Drum in New York.
The 19-year-old healthcare specialist was from Johnstown, Pa. His awards and decorations included the National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, the NATO Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon.
Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, of Waikoloa, Hawaii, died from a roadside bomb that detonated near him while he was on patrol in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Transfiguracion immigrated from the Philippines and had always dreamed of becoming a the Green Beret, family members said.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE TRANSFIGURACION FAMILY