The Army brought home the remains Monday of two soldiers killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan this weekend.
The remains of Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez, of San Antonio, Texas, and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, of Las Cruces, New Mexico, were flown in to Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, on a C-17 cargo aircraft.
Both men were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Army Chief of Staff James McConville attended the dignified transfer ceremony. White House reporters were told it was the first time since 2009 that a president and vice president attended a dignified transfer together.
Six other Americans were also wounded in the attack that took the lives of Gutierrez and Rodriguez. One Afghan soldier was also killed and three others were wounded.
The attack came after a key leader engagement at the Sherzad district center in Nangarhar province, an area considered a stronghold for Afghanistan’s Islamic State off-shoot.
Both Gutierrez and Rodriguez were posthumously promoted to sergeant 1st class and awarded Bronze Star medals and Purple Hearts. Their deaths bring the number of U.S. military casualties in Afghanistan this year to four. Seventeen American combat casualties in Afghanistan in 2019 made it the worst year since 2014.
Rodriguez was a former Army Ranger and veteran of eight combat deployments with 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. He retrained to be a cryptologic linguist and was assigned to 7th Special Forces Group in 2018. Gutierrez was a Green Beret communications sergeant who had one previous deployment to Iraq.
Both men were 28 years old.
An Afghan government official told the Associated Press that the shooter was an Afghan soldier who had argued with U.S. troops before opening fire. The Afghan official said the shooter was not suspected of being a Taliban infiltrator, a potentially important detail as peace talks with the insurgent group continue on this winter.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.