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Pentagon IDs Special Forces soldiers killed in insider attack

Feb. 14, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Spc. John Pelham, 22, of Portland, Ore., and Sgt. First Class Roberto Skelt, 41, were killed Feb. 12 in Afghanistan.
Spc. John Pelham, 22, of Portland, Ore., and Sgt. First Class Roberto Skelt, 41, were killed Feb. 12 in Afghanistan. (Army)
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The Defense Department has identified two soldiers killed earlier this week in an insider attack in Afghanistan as members of 3rd Special Forces Group.

Spc. John Pelham, 22, of Portland, Ore., and Sgt. First Class Roberto Skelt, 41, of York, Fla., belonged to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), based at Fort Bragg, N.C. Pelham was with Headquarters Company and Skelt was with Company C.

They died Wednesday, in Kapisa province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they were struck by enemy small arms fire, according to the Defense Department news release published today.

Defense officials said earlier in the week that two service members were killed and four were wounded in an attack Wednesday by gunmen wearing Afghan security force uniforms in eastern Afghanistan. The soldiers were not identified at the time.

A defense official confirmed for Army Times on Friday that the slain service members were Skelt and Pelham.

Officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss details of the attack, which is the latest in a string of incidents in which Afghan troops turned their weapons on their supposed allies.

The officials said four Afghans involved in the attack were killed in the ensuing battle.

The frequency of these insider attacks has declined markedly in recent months. At the height of the problem, in 2012, U.S. and coalition troops were more often fighting and training alongside their Afghan partners; the relationship evolved last year with the Afghans taking a lead combat role. That has put the Americans and other coalition troops in a less visible position as advisers.

The international coalition said in a brief written statement in Kabul that two members of the international military coalition were shot to death by two gunmen wearing Afghan uniforms, but it did not provide the nationalities of the dead.

Skelt enlisted in October 1990 as a signal support systems specialist, graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course as a Special Forces engineer sergeant in 2005 and deployed twice to Afghanistan and once to Yemen with 3rd Group.

Skelt went on to serve at the Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School and the 1st Special Warfare Training Group (A), Fort Bragg. He was recently reassigned to 3rd SFG (A).

Skelts awards include the Bronze Star Medal (3rd Oak Leaf Cluster), the Purple Heart, the Meritorious Service Medal (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster), the Army Commendation Medal (2nd Oak Leaf Cluster) and others.

He is survived by his wife and two sons, his parents, a brother and two sisters.

Pelham enlisted as a signal intelligence analyst in July 2011 and was assigned to 3rd Group in February.

His awards include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Army Commendation Medal and others.

Pelham, who was on his second tour in Afghanistan, was engaged to be married, his family told KPTV News.

His father, Wendall Pelham, said his son often told his family, Ive never been happier. Ive never been more at peace with who I am and what Im doing.

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