Spc. Wade A. Slack had one of the most dangerous jobs in a war zone.
Wearing 80-pound suits, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technicians tackle the nerve-wracking work of disarming unexploded bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, as portrayed in the film that won this year’s Best Picture Academy Award, “The Hurt Locker.”
Slack, a 21-year-old soldier from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, died Thursday of wounds sustained when insurgents attacked his unit, according to the Department of Defense on Friday.
Originally from Waterville, Maine, Slack was assigned to the 707th Ordnance Company, 3rd Ordnance Battalion. He died at Jaghatu, Afghanistan, according to a Defense news release.
It was the second consecutive day that a Lewis-McChord soldier was reported killed in Afghanistan. Master Sgt. Mark Coleman, who died Sunday in an enemy bombing, belonged to the 1st Special Forces Group from the local military base.
Slack and Coleman are the 36th and 37th soldiers from Lewis-McChord to die in Afghanistan since August.
Slack did not lose his life in an accidental detonation while working to disarm a bomb. He was killed by “indirect fire” from the enemy, according to the DOD, which means a rocket or mortar fired from a distance.
In a story posted Friday by the Waterville Morning Sentinel on its online edition, Alan Slack said his son “had been oriented for military service since 14” and had enlisted while still a senior in high school.
He said his son had been in Afghanistan the past 10 months: “I saw him at Christmas, talked with him last weekend – he was very happy.”
He described his son as “always bright and cheerful” and “always trying to keep others’ spirits up.”
According to Lewis-McChord, Slack enlisted in the Army in Maine in September 2006. After basic training, he completed specialized training in explosive ordnance disposal in Alabama and Florida.
He reported to Fort Lewis in September 2008. This was his first deployment.
Carole Dodge, assistant principal at Waterville High School who taught him music, recalled Slack as an honors student who was passionate and caring and knew he wanted to be in the military.
“He died doing exactly what he wanted to do,” Dodge told the local newspaper. “He was a great young man. He was focused and knew what he wanted in life.”
Michelle Cyr, who owns a restaurant where Slack worked before enlisting, told the Morning Sentinel that Slack was “the sweetest, kindest – and brave. It’s so tragic.”
And as a specialist who disarmed explosives, “he saved many lives,” Cyr said.
Despite the riskiness of the job, the 707th Ordnance Company has lost only one other soldier in the last decade – and that happened in a training accident, before either of the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq started.
Spc. Jason D. Wildfong, 29, was one of five servicemen killed in March 2001 after a Navy F/A-18C Hornet fighter pilot mistakenly bombed a forward observation post in Kuwait, according to Army reports at the time.
Staff writers Matt Misterek and Mike Archbold contributed to this report.