FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WESH) – Two U.S. paratroopers were killed in action while in combat in Afghanistan on Saturday, according to Fort Bragg officials.
The U.S. Department of Defense identified those killed as 29-year-old Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, of Newport News, Virginia, and 21-year-old Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, of Joliet, Illinois.
They were killed Saturday by an improvised explosive device.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident, which is currently under investigation.
“When our nation called for its best airborne combat engineers to deploy into harm’s way, Staff Sgt. McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation. They lived their motto, ‘Essayons,’ and embodied the values of the all-American engineer,” said Col. Art Sellers, commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. “Their loved ones are now surrounded by a caring community offering comfort and assistance through this difficult time.”
Two service members were also injured in the incident in the southern province of Kandahar.
McLaughlin and Villalon were conducting operations as part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission.
Between 12,000 and 13,000 U.S. troops are currently serving in Afghanistan as part of a U,.S.-led NATO mission to train, assist and advise Afghan forces.
“These paratroopers represent the very best of our nation and our Army,” said Maj. Gen. James Mingus, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division. “Three-time volunteers, they went when our nation called and paid the ultimate sacrifice. They will be honored, mourned but never forgotten, and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”
McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012 and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in 2016, where he served as a horizontal construction engineer and squad leader, according to Fort Bragg. This was his first combat deployment.
Some of McLaughlin’s many awards and decorations include the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, according to Fort Bragg.
McLaughlin is survived by his wife and children.
Villalon joined the Army in 2018 and was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in 2019, where he served as a combat engineer. This was his first combat deployment.
Some of Villalon’s multiple honors include the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star, according to Fort Bragg.
Villalon is survived by his mother and father.
CNN contributed to this report.
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