National Guard probes soldier’s death in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON — The Army National Guard has opened an investigation into the training and equipment made available to one of its explosive ordnance disposal units before its deployment to Afghanistan earlier this year, officials said.
The action follows a report in The New York Times on the death of a soldier in the unit, Spc. James A. Slape, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand province on Oct. 4.
Slape was a bomb disposal technician assigned to the 430th Ordnance Company of the North Carolina National Guard, based in Washington, North Carolina, which is still deployed to Afghanistan. Soldiers assigned to such units are responsible for defusing improvised bombs and other weapons that the Taliban employ.
Lt. Col. Wesley A. Parmer, a spokesman for the National Guard, said that the service had started an investigation ‘‘into the training and equipping of the 430th EOD Company for their mobilization and deployment to Afghanistan.’’ He provided no further details.
But according to Defense Department officials familiar with the matter, the 430th repeatedly asked for, but did not receive, certain training courses and equipment before its deployment that are considered standard for the company’s active-duty bomb-disposal counterparts.
One such piece of equipment that the 430th asked for and did not receive was an advanced hand-held device that its manufacturer says can detect any buried weapon that the Taliban are known to use.
That mine detector reportedly costs less than $15,000.
Slape was killed by a buried explosive while responding to an earlier improvised bomb attack on a U.S. vehicle about 7 miles southeast of Camp Dwyer, a U.S. forward operating base in southern Afghanistan.
It is unclear whether having the advanced detector his unit requested would have saved his life.
At the time of his death, Slape, 23, of Morehead City, North Carolina, was the eighth American to die in Afghanistan in 2018. Since his death, six more U.S. troops have been killed in combat in that country.