The Pentagon has identified a U.S. soldier killed April 15 during an ambush near Korengal Valley, Afghanistan, as a private first class with the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment.
Pfc. Richard A. Dewater, 21, of Topeka, Kan., was killed during a complex Taliban ambush, according to military officials and a report published Monday by The New York Times, which had a reporter embedded with the unit at the time of the attack.
Dewater’s death had led to short-term reports about a missing U.S. soldier. Those reports had reached into U.S. units even in southern Afghanistan over the weekend.
Indeed, according to the Times story, in the chaos of the ambush, his platoon did not realize Dewater was missing until it had escaped from the kill zone.
"Back at the outpost, American and Afghan soldiers flowed out into the darkness. The Afghans would scour the riverbed in case the missing soldier had ended up in the water. The captain told the platoons to be prepared to search every house in the villages, in case the Taliban had dragged him off," the Times reported.
"Wearing night-vision equipment, the platoon combed the ambush site in the rain. The company waited for news. At 8:10 p.m., Specialist [Robert] Soto’s strained voice came over the radio.
" ‘Break, break, break,’ he said, using the convention for stopping all conversations."
Dewater had been killed by a bomb blast at the beginning of the ambush, and his body had been lifted into a tree by the explosion.
The incident took place near Aliabad, Afghanistan, when an American platoon patrolling with Afghan forces was ambushed by Taliban fighters on higher ground.
According to the Times, the U.S. troops — part of Company B, 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry Regiment — had been early in a mission to meet with local elders in the village of Laneyal.
Just days before, the same unit had conducted an ambush of its own, killing at least 13 insurgents, and had predicted a retaliatory attack.
Dewater, according to the Times story, had joined the platoon as a combat replacement.
"A real humble dude, and totally positive about everything we did," Soto described him in the article.
There was little other biographical information available Monday from news outlets in Dewater’s hometown.