WASHINGTON — An Army National Guard soldier from North Carolina was killed in Afghanistan last week by a roadside bomb while on his way to assist a vehicle that had been sidelined from another bomb attack.
Spc. James A. Slape, 23, from Morehead City, North Carolina, died Thursday in Helmand province as a result of wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device, the Pentagon said in a news release. He is the seventh U.S. soldier to die from hostile action in Afghanistan this year, the Pentagon said.
Slape had begun to clear an area of explosives when a bomb detonated, according to news reports.
“Our thoughts go out to the soldier’s family and to the unit that he came from,” Gen. Joseph Votel, the commander of Central Command, told Pentagon reporters on Thursday before Slape’s identification was made public.
Sunday was the 17th anniversary of U.S. forces going to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Since then, 2,414 U.S. service personnel have been killed by hostile action in Afghanistan, according to the tracking organization icasualties, and almost 21,000 have been wounded in America’s longest-running war.
Slape, 23, joined the North Carolina National Guard in 2013 and graduated from the Explosive Ordnance School in 2015. His unit deployed to Afghanistan in April, the Pentagon said.
The attack remains under investigation, the Pentagon said.
In August, a similar roadside bomb attack killed Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion, 36, also in Helmand province.
The numbers of U.S. killed in action have decreased while the number of Afghans killed has increased, Voter noted. “It’s my understanding that it is increasing,” he said Thursday. He said it has been a “difficult and bloody summer” for Afghan forces.
“What we are trying to do is make sure that the Afghans are employing their forces in a manner that doesn’t unnecessarily expose them to these kind of large casualty-producing incidents,” Votel said. “One of the particular ways we’re trying to do that is through reducing their dependence on these remote, poorly defended, difficult to support and sustain checkpoints that they have in various parts around the country. And so, its specific focus with the Afghan leadership, both political and military, as well as with our advisers on the ground to help them reduce this.”
Votel quoted an Afghan commander who said Kabul’s forces “have a bloody nose, but we are standing, and we are fighting, and that’s exactly what they’re doing right now.”