Two Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers died in Kandahar province over the past week, the Pentagon announced Monday, bringing to 17 the number of local soldiers to die in Afghanistan this year.
Cpl. Juan Navarro, 23, of Austin, Texas, was killed by an enemy bomb Saturday.
Staff Sgt. Raul Guerra, 37, died July 4 in Kandahar’s Spin Boldak district. The cause is under investigation, Army I Corps spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Dangerfield said Monday.
The two were serving in different units in far different stages of their careers. Guerra was on his fifth combat deployment. Navarro was on his second tour and apparently making plans for life after the Army.
Navarro was assigned to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division and deployed in March. Within his Stryker brigade, he belonged to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.
He was promoted to corporal during his tour, a rank that’s equivalent to specialist but signifies greater responsibility in combat. Photos on his Facebook page show him receiving a combat infantry badge, the pin soldiers earn for responding to enemy fire.
Friends and family of Navarro mourned him Monday on social media websites. One of his last Facebook posts mentioned plans he was making to go to college after his deployment. He was scheduled to end his enlistment next spring.
“College here I come,” he wrote in late June.
“Heartbreaking to read this now,” a friend replied Monday.
Army friends quoted another one of Navarro’s last Facebook messages, one that reflected his sense of purpose in Afghanistan.
“God loves me enough to let me go through all the lessons I came here to learn, even the ones that hurt the most,” Navarro wrote July 6.
“His presence doesn’t deny me. It’s always there to help me see and understand what I came to this place to learn.”
Navarro joined the Army in 2008. He deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Brigade in 2009-10.
Guerra, from Union City, N.J., served in Lewis-McChord’s 502nd Military Intelligence Battalion, 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade.
He enlisted in 1999 and initially trained as a mechanic. He deployed to Afghanistan three times with a unit from Fort Bragg, N.C., between 2002 and 2006.
In 2007, Guerra changed specialties in the Army and became a human intelligence collector. He deployed to Iraq from October 2007 to December 2008 with his unit from Fort Stewart, Ga.
Guerra was assigned to Lewis-McChord in July 2011. He deployed with his current unit in May. The surveillance brigade is charged with gathering and analyzing information to guide NATO commanders in battle.
Spin Boldak, where Guerra died, is in the far south of Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan.
The Army did not say where Navarro was killed in Kandahar. His battalion has been fighting in the province’s Panjwai district, one of the war’s main battlegrounds this summer.adam.ashton@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8646