WASHINGTON – A soldier from New Mexico died of wounds received two weeks ago while hunting for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said Monday.
Sgt. 1st Class Christopher James Speer, 28, of Albuquerque, was among five U.S. soldiers injured in an ambush on July 27 in the east of Afghanistan. He died Wednesday, a Department of Defense statement said.
Speer was born in Denver, Colo. He was a 1992 graduate of Sandia High School in Albuquerque, Albuquerque schools spokesman Rigo Chavez said.
Speer joined the Army on July 8, 1992, according to a news release from the U.S. Army Special Operations office.
Speer completed Special Forces training in 1997 and was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, N.C.
About 50 U.S. soldiers and allied Afghan militia were trying to confirm intelligence about an enemy operative in the area when they came under small-arms fire, commanders said at the time. Special Forces and conventional troops were flown to the fight after the ambush, putting a total of about 100 troops on the ground.
Two Afghan militiamen also had been killed in the 4 1/2-hour gun battle in eastern Afghanistan during a search for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters believed holed up in the lawless region.
Speer had been evacuated to Germany for medical care. The other four soldiers' injuries were not life threatening and they were treated at the U.S. base at Bagram, Afghanistan.
At least three of those who opened fire on the U.S. and Afghan troops from a mud-brick compound also were killed, officials say.
The region is regarded as one of the most insecure areas of Afghanistan and forces of the U.S.-led coalition have repeatedly conducted operations there aimed at flushing out holdouts of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
Ten months after the start of the war to crush Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda, U.S.-led coalition forces still hunt small and scattered pockets of the terrorist fighters as well as figures from the ousted Taliban regime.
Speer is survived by his wife Tabitha, his children Taryn and Tanner and his mother Betty.
The Army public affairs office said the family did not plan to grant any interviews.
The decorations and awards Speer received while in the Army include the Soldiers Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and two Army Achievement Medal.