Three Bragg Soldiers Killed in Pakistan
February 07, 2010Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer
Three Soldiers killed Wednesday in Pakistan were from U.S. Army Special Operations Command units at Fort Bragg, the Pentagon said.
The Soldiers were part of a low-profile mission and were the first U.S. Soldiers to die in Pakistan, officials said.
The Soldiers killed were Sgt. 1st Class Matthew S. Sluss-Tiller, 35, of Callettsburg, Ky., 96th Civil Affairs Battalion of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade; Sgt. 1st Class David J. Hartman, 27, of Okinawa, Japan, who was in the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion; and Staff Sgt. Mark A. Stets Jr., 39, of El Cajon, Calif., assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion of the 4th Psychological Operations Group.
The Soldiers died of wounds from the explosion of a homemade bomb in the Lower Dir District of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province. They were in the area to attend the inauguration ceremony of a girls' school recently renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance.
The blast also killed three children and a Pakistan paramilitary Soldier. Two other U.S. Soldiers and about 100 people were wounded.
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The Fort Bragg Soldiers were among about 200 U.S. military personnel working for the Office of the Defense Representative Pakistan, said Maj. John H. Redfield, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command at Tampa, Fla. They were among the U.S. military personnel in Pakistan to conduct training at the invitation of the Pakistan Frontier Corps, according to the U.S. Central Command.
Sluss-Tiller had previously deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and Kosovo. He is survived by his wife, Melissa, and daughter, Hannah, of Sanford; his father, Edward Tiller, of Sevierville, Tenn.; and mother and stepfather, Jane and Forest Blankenship, of Sanford.
He would have turned 36 on Valentine's Day, said his wife of 16 years. In his letters, he requested crayons and Play-Doh to give to children, she said.
"Matthew was my hero," his wife said. "He was a good man, loved the Army, loved everything about serving his country."
The couple had known each other since eighth grade.
"He loved people," she said. "He had a heart of gold and would readily do anything for anybody. He was a great father. Matthew did a little bit of everything. He was active in our community; he was active on post. He loved life."
Sluss-Tiller had three years left until he was eligible to retire from the Army with benefits, she said.
"My heart breaks," she said. "The military was a part of him. He didn't question serving his country."
He enlisted in the Army Reserve as a heavy construction mechanic in 1991. Two years later, he went on active duty as a signal specialist and served at Fort Bragg, Germany, and Kuwait. He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion in April and has served as a civil affairs noncommissioned officer in Civil Military Operations Cell and most recently as team sergeant of Civil Affairs Team 622.
Sluss-Tiller's awards and decorations include the Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. He was also awarded the Senior Parachutist's Badge, Gold Recruiter's Badge and German Jump wings.
Hartman previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is survived by his pregnant wife, Cherise Sabio of Rosamond, Calif., and their son, Michael. He also is survived by his parents, Greg and Mikail Hartman of Merced. Hartman was a sergeant in the Civil Military Operations Cell and a former civil affairs team sergeant.
Hartman graduated from Kadena High School, Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa in 2000, and enlisted into the U.S. Army. He was assigned as a civil affairs noncommissioned officer for Team 622 in Company B of the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion.
He served at Fort Bragg in the 50th Signal Battalion as an electronic maintenance shop foreman, forced entry switch section team chief and sergeant, senior electronic maintenance technician and senior switch technician.
Hartman's awards include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terror Expeditionary and Service medals, NCO Professional Development Ribbon and Overseas Service Medal.
Stets previously deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife, Nina, and daughters, Jessica, December and Rachael, of Fayetteville. He was a native of California. Stets was a senior psychological operations sergeant.
He joined the Navy in 1989, enlisted in the Army in 1995 as an artilleryman and then reclassified to become a psy ops specialist in 2004.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, National Defense Service Medals, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, South West Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Citation