Two Oklahoma National Guard soldiers, including the first female Oklahoma National Guard soldier to be killed during wartime, have been killed during combat in Afghanistan, military officials announced Wednesday.
Pfc. Sarina Butcher, 19, and Spc. Christopher Gailey, 26, died Tuesday when their vehicle was attacked with an improvised explosive device in Paktia province, the Department of Defense said. The bomb exploded near the soldiers' vehicle while their unit was on a re-supply mission, the Oklahoma National Guard said in a statement.
Both were assigned to the Tulsa-based 700th Brigade Support Battalion, 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. Two others were hurt in the explosion but are expected to recover, National Guard officials said.
Butcher, of Checotah, is the youngest Guard member to die in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Oklahoma National Guard said. She joined the Oklahoma National Guard in April 2010 and served as an automated logistical specialist.
Butcher has a daughter, who lives in El Dorado, Ark., as does Butcher's mother, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., said in a statement. Butcher's father lives in Checotah. Butcher's parents could not be immediately reached Wednesday.
"Private First Class Sarina Butcher was a mother, daughter and a brave and dedicated solider who put her life on the line in service to her country," Ross said.
Gailey, of Ochelata, attended Caney Valley High School and graduated in 2005. He enlisted in the Guard in 2004, National Guard officials said.
Caney Valley principal Debra Keil was a counselor when Gailey attended.
"He had a smile on his face all the time," Keil said. "Very outgoing, very personable."
When Gailey attended Caney Valley, Keil was a counselor at the Washington County school of about 240 students. She said he transferred there for his junior and senior year.
"This is the first time I've been here that something like this has happened," Keil said. "It's just a shocking thing."
The deaths of Butcher and Gailey bring to 14 the number of 45th Infantry Brigade members who have died in Afghanistan since 2,200 members deployed there in June. Nineteen Oklahoma National Guard members have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001.