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US Troops Slain in Suspected Insider Attack in Afghanistan Identified

From left, Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, and Sgt. William M. Bays, 29. All three were killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan on June 10, 2017. (Army Photos)
From left, Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, and Sgt. William M. Bays, 29. All three were killed in an insider attack in Afghanistan on June 10, 2017. (Army Photos)

The U.S. Defense Department on Monday identified the American soldiers killed over the weekend in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan.

The soldiers were identified as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29 of Barstow, California; and Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina, according to a press release.

They were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault); and Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the release states.

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"Today, as we grieve, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Cpl. Baldridge, Sgt. Houck and Sgt. Bays," Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell, said in a separate statement.

“In the days ahead, the 101st Soldiers and the Rakkasans will continue the fight against terrorism with unbridled determination," he added. "Our Soldiers are battle-hardened and committed to the defense of our nation and the freedoms for which we fight."

The 3rd BCT "Rakkasans" members died Saturday in Peka Valley, located in Nangarhar Province, of gunshot wounds in an incident that remains under investigation, the Pentagon said.

The Associated Press, citing information from Attahullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Nangarhar, reported an Afghan soldier opened fire on the U.S. troops.

In addition to the three fatalities, a fourth American soldier was wounded and medically evacuated from the scene, the Pentagon said.

So far this year, six U.S. service members have been killed in combat in Afghanistan, all in Nangarhar in the eastern part of the country, according to statistics compiled by the website icasualties.org.

Multiple militant groups including the Taliban and an Islamic State of Iraq and Syria affiliate called Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K, are vying for control of parts of the restive province.

Baldridge and Bays were infantrymen in Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, according to the Army.

Baldridge was assigned as a squad leader who joined the Army in February 2013 and arrived at Fort Campbell in August 2016, the service said.

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with three oak clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Expert Infantryman Badge, according to the Army.

He was posthumously promoted to sergeant and earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster for his end-of-tour awards, the service said.

Bays was assigned as a squad leader who joined the Army in August 2009 and arrived at Fort Campbell in August 2014, according to the Army.

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Assault Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge, the service said.

Bays posthumously earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards, according to the Army.

Houck, meanwhile, was a forward observers in Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 3rd Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, the service said. He was assigned as a Fire Support Sergeant who joined the Army in May 2013 and arrived at Fort Campbell in March 2016, it said.

His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Superior Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Air Assault Badge, according to the Army.

Houck posthumously earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal with a second oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards, the service said.

-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.

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