FORT BRAGG, N.C. (WNCN/AP) — An 82nd Airborne paratrooper from Georgia was killed in an explosion in Iraq on Saturday.
1st Lt. Weston C. Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Georgia died when an improvised explosive device detonated during a patrol outside Mosul, the 82nd Airborne Division said in a news release.
Saturday’s incident marks the second American military fatality since the start of the Mosul operation against the Islamic State group more than six months ago.
Lee, who was on his first deployment that began in Dec. 2016, was assigned to 1st Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division.
“1st Lieutenant Wes Lee was an extraordinary young man and officer. He was exactly the type of leader that our Paratroopers deserve,” said Col. Pat Work, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team. “Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Lee, who was an infantry officer, joined the Army in March 2015 and after training was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division as a platoon leader, officials said.
The Pentagon has acknowledged more than 100 U.S. special operations forces are operating with Iraqi units, with hundreds more playing a support role in staging bases farther from the front lines.
Lee’s awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Ranger Tab, the Parachutist Badge, and the Army Service Ribbon. He was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal.
There are now more U.S. forces in Iraq than any time since the 2011 U.S. withdrawal, marking an intensifying war as Iraqi forces and the U.S.-led coalition work to push IS out of the last pockets of territory it controls in Iraq.