07 McKaughlin VillilonFayetteville is struggling with the departure of elements of two 82nd Airborne Division combat teams to the Middle East, where casualties continue to mount. Two paratroopers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan died earlier this month. Staff Sgt. Ian Paul McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Virginia, and Pfc. Miguel Angel Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Illinois, were killed when their vehicle struck a roadside improvised explosive device. Two other U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne were wounded in the attack, which occurred in the southern province of Kandahar, a spokesman for the division said.

“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,” said Col. Art Sellers, Commander of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team.
Maj. Gen. James Mingus, the 82nd Airborne Division’s commanding general, added, “These paratroopers represent the very best of our nation and our Army. They will be honored, mourned, but never forgotten, and we are committed to taking care of their families for life.”

The U.S. also has the 82nd’s 1st Brigade Combat Team on duty in the Middle East. The entire unit’s 4,000 paratroopers were deployed following the killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani. The troops were deployed to Iraq, Kuwait and other parts of the region, overseen by the Army’s Central Command. Defense officials maintain that the additional soldiers were not a direct response to Soleimani’s death, but rather a continuation of an earlier announcement to beef up America’s military presence in the region, officials said.

McLaughlin and Villalon were assigned to the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion at Fort Bragg. This was their first combat deployment.  McLaughlin joined the Army in 2012. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with “C” Device, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Army Good Conduct Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Combat Action Badge and the Basic Parachutist Badge. He was a 2018 graduate of the U.S. Army Advanced Airborne School Jumpmaster Course. McLaughlin is survived by his wife and four children. The couple’s youngest child was born while his father was deployed.
Villalon joined the Army in 2018. His awards and decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal with “C” Device, the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal and the Combat Action Badge. Villalon is survived by his mother of Chicago, Illinois and father of Brownsville, Texas.

More than 2,400 American troops have died in Afghanistan since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion was launched in response to the 9/11 attacks. Most of the 20,000 international troops now in Afghanistan are focused on training and advising Afghan security forces, with a smaller contingent taking part in a counterterrorism mission.

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