Sgt. James A. Slape, a 23-year-old explosive ordnance disposal technician from Morehead City, North Carolina, was killed Thursday by a roadside bomb as he worked to clear an area of explosives in southern Helmand in Afghanistan.
After a blast had damaged a vehicle, Slape had left his vehicle and was working to clear the area, a spokesman for the U.S.-led NATO Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan said.
“He was engaged in clearing operations to protect his comrades and innocent Afghan civilians from the threat of indiscriminate improvised explosive devices,” said Navy Cmdr. Grant Neeley.
“He left his vehicle and was working to clear the area when another IED detonated,” Neeley said. Slape “was medically evacuated to a medical care facility but despite valiant efforts to save him, his wounds were fatal.”
He was promoted to the rank of sergeant posthumously.
Slape is the seventh U.S. service member to be killed in action this year, and the 1833rd American to be killed in action in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001, according to records on iCasualties.org. An additional 373 have died from non-hostile causes in Afghanistan.
“We mourn and honor the sacrifice of our service member,” said the U.S. Commander in Afghanistan Army Gen. Scott Miller. “We remain committed.”
Slape was assigned to the 430th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Company, 60th Troop Command, North Carolina Army National Guard, in Washington, North Carolina.
He was based at Camp Dwyer in Helmand, the bloodiest province in Afghanistan for U.S. troops since the war began.
His unit had arrived to Afghanistan in April, and was scheduled to return the following spring, according to ABC 11 Eyewitness News.
Slape joined the North Carolina National Guard in 2013.
“We honor his courage, his selfless service and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and fellow Soldiers as we hold them firmly in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time,” Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard said in a statement.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also acknowledged Slape’s sacrifice.
“National Guard members step up and answer the call to service wherever they are needed, whether at home to help during a natural disaster or overseas to protect our national security. They leave their homes, their families and their jobs and put their lives on the line for us,” he said.
“On behalf of the people of North Carolina, I honor the service and sacrifice of Sgt. James Slape and offer our deepest sympathy to his loved ones and his fellow soldiers.”
Slape is the 26th North Carolina National Guard soldier to be killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001, according to Eyewitness News.
There are approximately 340 North Carolina National Guard soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan, according to the outlet.