US Soldier, Decorated Green Beret, 40, Killed by Enemy Fire in Afghanistan

July 15, 2019 Updated: July 15, 2019

A soldier with the United States Army was killed during combat operations in Afghanistan on July 13, military officials said yesterday.

Decorated Special Forces company sergeant major James G. “Ryan” Sartor, 40, died in Afghanistan’s northern Faryab Province. He was fatally injured during enemy fire in the region, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command confirmed in a statement on July 14.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the shooting, reported ABC 13, and the incident is under investigation.

Sartor, who was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group out of Fort Carson, was from Teague, Texas, according to the Department of Defense.

The 40-year-old began his career with the Army as an infantryman with the 3rd Infantry Division in 2001, before moving on to Special Forces Group four years later when he passed the qualification course.

In 2002, Sartor was deployed as an infantryman to Iraq. In 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010, he was assigned to the 2nd Battalion as a Green Beret.

The U.S. Army later deployed Sartor with the 10th Special Forces Group to Afghanistan in 2017 and again this year.

Sartor was supporting Operation Freedom’s Sentinel when he was killed, reported Stars and Stripes.

The commander of the 10th Special Forces Group, Col. Brian R. Rauen, said in a statement, “We’re incredibly saddened to learn of Sgt. Maj. James ‘Ryan’ Sartor’s passing in Afghanistan.”

“Ryan was a beloved warrior who epitomized the quiet professional. He led his soldiers from the front and his presence will be terribly missed.”

The Taliban said it was responsible for the attack that killed Sartor, claiming it targeted a U.S. vehicle with an improvised explosive device (IED) in the country’s Sayedabad District of Wardak Province, reported ABC News.

Sartor’s is the 12th U.S. military death in Afghanistan this year, and the 10th during combat. On June 26, two U.S. soldiers who were part of the Special Forces team died during a military operation in the war-weary country.

The two servicemen were identified as 24-year-old Sgt. James G. Johnston from Trumansburg, New York, and 32-year-old Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, from Heilbronn, Germany, reported the New York Times.

According to U.S. defense officials, the pair were killed after sustaining injuries from small-arms fire from Taliban fighters in southern Uruzgan province.

Following the death of Johnston and Riley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “I think this drives home the need for us to be successful with the missions that we have undertaken in Afghanistan as a reconciliation to reduce the level of violence, to reduce the level of risk to Afghans broadly, and the risk to American service members.”

There are approximately 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan, advising the country’s military as they battle the Taliban.

Since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, more than 2,000 American military personnel have died, reported CNN.

Just last week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, met Taliban officials, which wound up the seventh round of talks in Qatar after signs of progress in efforts to end the longest war in which the United States has ever fought.

A day prior to the talks, a delegation of Afghan citizens agreed with the Taliban on a “roadmap for peace”—in particular, a joint call to end civilian casualties in the 18-year war.

According to officials, the United States and the Taliban are getting closer to a deal that is expected to be centered on a U.S. promise to withdraw troops in exchange for a Taliban promise not to let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism.

Sartor earned himself a number of decorations and awards throughout his time with the U.S. Army.

These include the Bronze Star Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Award, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Valorous Unit Award with two oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Unit Citation with one oak leaf cluster and National Defense Service Medal, the Army said.

He has also been awarded the Purple Heart Medal and Bronze Star Medal posthumously.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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