The Defense Department has identified three Marines killed Monday in a bomb blast in Afghanistan near Bagram airfield.
According to officials, three other service members and an Afghan contractor were also wounded in the attack, which was claimed by the Taliban. The deadly assault was carried out despite ongoing peace efforts to end a messy 17-year conflict.
Staff Sgt. Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark, Delaware; Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley, New York; and Sgt. Benjamin S. Hines, 31, of York, Pennsylvania ― all members of the 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve ― lost their lives in the attack.
A command release said the Marines were conducting “combat operations” in Parwan province, Afghanistan.
The Defense Department provided no other details of the Marines killed in the deadly attack.
These deaths in Afghanistan are the first for the Marine Corps in several years.
It’s a positive, yet somber, milestone for the Corps.
Slutman, a Marine reservist, was a veteran of the Kentland, Maryland, volunteer fire department.
“It is with deep regret that the Kentland Volunteer Fire Department (KVFD), Incorporated announces the tragic passing of Life Member Christopher Slutman (#7194),” Oleg Pelekhaty, the Kentland fire chief posted to Facebook Tuesday.
Slutman was also a 15-year veteran of the New York Fire Department, and was awarded the Fire Chiefs Association Memorial Medal for his heroic actions rescuing a woman from a burning building in South Bronx in 2014, the New York Post first reported.
He leaves behind a wife and three kids.
Prior to the deadly April 8 attack, the last Marine to die from enemy fire in Afghanistan was Marine Raider Sgt. Charles C. Strong, who was killed in an apparent insider attack in 2014.
The Corps has a relatively light footprint in Afghanistan consisting of some special operators and a small adviser group known as Task Force Southwest.
Task Force Southwest is currently in its third rotation to the war torn region. The Marine unit operating out of Helmand province, Afghanistan is tasked with advising the Afghan Army 215th Corps.
The Marine advisers have helped Afghan forces relieve pressure on the once beleaguered Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah by expanding the security belt around the city. However, much of the volatile province remains under Taliban control, according to a government watchdog report.
The U.S. is still amid peace talks with the Taliban. The latest round of negotiations wrapped up in March.