Two Special Forces soldiers killed, other US service members injured by shooter in Afghan uniform
By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 8, 2020
KABUL, Afghanistan — Two American service members and an Afghan soldier were killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan on Saturday, military officials from both countries said Sunday.
Staff Sgts. Javier Jaguar Gutierrez, of San Antonio, Texas, and Antonio Rey Rodriguez, of Las Cruces, N.M. both 28, were the Americans killed, the Pentagon said in a statement.
Six American and three Afghan troops also were said to have been injured in the attack in Sherzad district in eastern Nangarhar province. The conditions of those injured were not specified.
A joint U.S.-Afghan force came under fire after meeting with local leaders in the district capital, Col. Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“Current reports indicate an individual in an Afghan uniform opened fire on the combined U.S. and Afghan force with a machine gun,” Leggett said. “The wounded service members are receiving medical treatment at a U.S. facility.”
The motive behind the attack wasn’t known initially and an investigation has been launched, Leggett said.
Gutierrez and Rodriguez were both assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and each was promoted posthumously to sergeant first class.
Rodriguez enlisted in the Army in 2009 and, after initial training and selection, was assigned to 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, U.S. Army Special Operations Command said in a statement. In June 2018, he voluntarily reclassified as a cryptologic Spanish linguist.
Rodriguez was deployed to Afghanistan 10 times in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, eight times with the 75th Ranger Regiment and twice with the 3rd Battalion, 7th SFG(A).
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. He posthumously was awarded the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.
“Sgt. 1st Class Rodriguez was selfless and served honorably; he was certainly among the best in our unit,” said Col. John W. Sannes, 7th SFG(A) commander.
Gutierrez also enlisted in the Army in 2009 as an infantryman and was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., while assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division.
He graduated the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2015 as a Special Forces communications sergeant and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th SFG(A).
Gutierrez deployed once to Iraq while assigned to 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment and once to Afghanistan while assigned to 7th SFG(A).
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal. He posthumously was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
“Sgt. 1st Class Gutierrez was a warrior that exemplified selfless service and a commitment to the mission, both values that we embody here in the 7th Special Forces Group,” Sannes said.
Security forces killed the gunman involved in Saturday’s attack, Nangarhar Provincial Council Member Ajmal Omar told Stars and Stripes in a telephone interview.
The shooter does not appear to have been an insurgent infiltrator, The Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed Afghan defense official who described him as a soldier who had argued with U.S. forces before opening fire.
The Taliban did not comment on the incident immediately.
“Incidents such as this fail to have negative effects on the friendship and spirit of cooperation between ANDSF and U.S. military forces,” the Afghan Defense Ministry said, using an acronym for the country’s security forces. “We will continue our fight against terrorism together.”
The U.S. deaths bring the number of American troops killed in combat in Afghanistan this year to four. Two more died in an airplane crash last month that officials have said did not appear to be caused by enemy fire.