AFGHANISTAN — A 29-year-old man from Barstow was one of three soldiers killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire Saturday, Department of Defense officials said.
Sgt. William M. Bays, of Barstow, Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, and Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, N.C., were killed while supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel in the Peka Valley of the Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. The shooting is under investigation, officials said.
"Today, as we grieve, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of Cpl. Baldridge, Sgt. Houck and Sgt. Bays. We take this as a family loss," said Maj. Gen. Andrew Poppas, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and Fort Campbell.
"In the days ahead, the 101st soldiers and the Rakkasans will continue the fight against terrorism with unbridled determination. Our soldiers are battle-hardened and committed to the defense of our nation and the freedoms for which we fight."
Bays, Houck and Baldridge were assigned to the Fort Campbell, Kentucky-based 101st Airborne Division, according to officials. The 3rd Brigade Combat Team "Rakkasans" deployed in the fall of 2016 in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
A former Barstow High School student who graduated from Central High School in 2005, Bays was an infantryman in Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, officials said. He was assigned as a squad leader who joined the Army in August 2009 and arrived at Fort Campbell in August 2014.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Assault Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge.
Bays, who leaves behind a wife, Jasmin, and three children, according to Stars and Stripes, posthumously earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke about the deaths at his regular press briefing Monday.
"I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the three service members that were killed this weekend in Afghanistan. The incident is currently under investigation, but our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of these American heroes who've lost their lives in this tragic event," Spicer told reporters.
— The Associated Press contributed to this article