Two U.S. soldiers killed by Afghan troops at a base in Kandahar on Thursday were paratroopers from the 82 Airborne Division based at Fort Bragg, the Army said late Friday.
Staff Sgt. Jordan Bear, 25, of Denver, Colo., and Spc. Payton Jones, 19, of Marble Falls, Texas, were infantrymen with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, in the division's 4th Brigade Combat Team.
The men - the most recent American victims of violence in the wake of the burning of Qurans at a U.S. military base last week - were killed on a joint U.S.-Afghan base in Zhari district of southern Kandahar province by two Afghan soldiers and an Afghan civilian literacy instructor who fired from a sentry tower, according to U.S. and Afghan officials.
NATO forces shot and killed two of the assailants, apparently the soldiers, said Pentagon press secretary George Little.
It was Bear's third deployment to Afghanistan and Jones' first, the Army said. Bear's mother, Cathleen Bear, told The Denver Post that Army officials say he was shot while trying to lift a wounded soldier who had fallen next to him. It was not clear whether that was Jones. Bear's mother told The Associated Press he predicted he would die in the service.
"He once told me that all he wanted was a wife and a son and that he probably would never have that because he would die while serving," she said. Bear did have a 2-month-old son, however. He deployed to Afghanistan in February.
"Staff Sgt. Bear set the example for all the squad leaders in his platoon. He was a phenomenal leader and beloved by the men he led," the Army quoted Capt. Cecil Wolberton, the men's company commander, as saying Saturday.
"I remember Payton's first day in the unit. He was young, fit and had all the makings of an outstanding soldier. Over the past year, I've had the privilege of watching him develop as a paratrooper," Wolberton said of Jones.
Both men held the Army's Bronze Star and Purple Hearts in addition to other awards, the Army said. Bear also held the Army Commendation Medal.
Bear joined the Army in September 2004, officials said. He trained at Fort Benning, Ga., and was assigned to Fort Bragg in 2005. He served in Afghanistan from February 2007 to April 2008 and from August 2009 to July 2010.
Jones joined in July 2010 and was assigned to the 82 Airborne later that year.
Bear is survived by his wife, Sarah Bear, his daughter, Kailee Holbrook, 4, and his son, Kayden Bear, 2 months, the Army said. Jones is survived by his father, Buell Jones, and his mother, Tami Sims.
On Feb. 25, two U.S. military advisers were found dead with shots to the back of the head inside the Afghan Interior Ministry in Kabul. Two U.S. troops were killed Feb. 23 by an Afghan soldier during an anti-Western protest over the Quran burning.
The U.S. apologized for the burning, saying the Islamic texts were mistakenly sent to a garbage burn pit Feb. 20 at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul.
But the incident raised what had been simmering animosity toward outsiders to a full boil.
Deadly protests raged around the nation for six days - the most visible example of a deep-seated resentment bred by what Afghans view as a lack of respect for their culture and religion.