Two Joint Base Lewis-McChord Stryker soldiers were killed Saturday by insurgent explosives in southern Afghanistan, the Defense Department announced Monday.
Spc. Brittany Gordon, 24, of the 572nd Military Intelligence Company was killed by a bomb in an unidentified part of Kandahar province.
Sgt. Robert Billings, 30, of the 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, died from wounds he suffered during an attack with an improvised explosive device in Kandahar province’s Spin Boldak district.
The fallen soldiers were from different Stryker brigades but came home to U.S. soil together early Monday on a military flight to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Gordon is the daughter of an assistant police chief in St. Petersburg, Fla. She celebrated her birthday in Afghaniston on Oct. 2, the Tampa Bay Times reported. Her family expected her to return home in December.
“Her dream was to serve,” Brittany Gordon’s cousin, the Rev. Evelyn Thompson, told the Tampa Bay Times. “If I would describe her, she had no fear. She wanted to make a difference. Because that’s what military people do: make a difference in the lives of others.”
Gordon joined the Army in January 2010 and was assigned to Lewis-McChord later that year. She was on her first deployment.
“I know that Chief Gordon was extremely proud of Brittany and all that she accomplished in her life,” St. Petersburg Police Chief Chuck Harmon said in a news release. “Her life of service and especially service to her country stand as a testament to the type of person she was.”
Billings, of Clarksville, Va., was serving on his second deployment out of Lewis-McChord. The infantryman had deployed to Iraq from September 2009 to August 2010 with the base’s 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.
He joined his new unit in January 2011 and deployed to Kandahar province in December.
Billings enlisted in the Army in 2006 and had served in Fort Carson, Colo., before arriving at Lewis-McChord in the summer of 2009.
News releases from the past few months show that soldiers in Spin Boldak were focused on training Afghan border police operating near Pakistan. The district is well-known to NATO as a smuggling hub.
Both soldiers were serving in Lewis-McChord Stryker brigades. Gordon’s intelligence company was part of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The brigade has some 4,000 soldiers in southern Afghanistan; it has lost nine soldiers on this deployment.
Billings’ battalion belongs to the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The brigade has about 3,500 soldiers in southern Afghanistan, and it has lost 15 soldiers this year.
Lewis-McChord has had a heavy footprint in Afghanistan in 2012 with as many as 10,000 soldiers fighting there at the peak of the deployments this summer. Thirty Lewis-McChord soldiers have died there this year.
Gordon is the first female soldier from the local base to die in combat since 2010.