One of three U.S. soldiers killed in the West African nation of Niger on Wednesday was a Warren County native, the Department of Defense said in a release identifying the service members Friday.
Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, a Springboro native, was killed during a joint operation that was being conducted by U.S. and Nigerien forces. Mali-based militants in Niger's Tillaberi region is responsible for the attacks, the release said.
“Unfortunately, we lost another one,” said Springboro Mayor John Agenbroad, whose grandson, Jackson Book of Springboro, shipped off today to Iraq.
“We’re so stretched out with all the wars,” said Agenbroad, who is also a veteran. “It’s a shame our young men and women have to spend so many deployments in these places. The odds are against them.”
Johnson was a chemical, biological radiological and nuclear soldier who was assigned to the Fort Bragg-based 3rd Special Forces Group. He enlisted in the Army in October 2007.
“Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson was an exceptional Soldier in all regards. We, as a nation, are fortunate to have men like Jeremiah," said Lt. Col. Megan Brogden, commander of Group Support Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group. "He not only represented what we should all aspire to be, but he lived it. His loss is a great blow and he will be missed and mourned by this unit."
Two other soldiers killed during the attack were identified as Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia. All three were stationed in Fort Bragg.
Eight Niger soldiers were also killed, Niger's Army chief of staff said in a statement.
"A joint patrol of the Defense and Security Forces and American partners operating in the border area of Mali fell into an ambush set by terrorist elements aboard a dozen vehicles and about 20 motorcycles," the statement said. The deaths and injuries came "after intense fighting, during which elements of the joint force showed exemplary courage."
The statement welcomed "the constant commitment of the American partners in the fight against terrorism."
Niger's President Mahamadou Issoufou and the U.S. Ambassador to Niger Eunice S. Reddik met before Issoufou presided over a meeting of the National Security Council made up of senior officers and ministers.
"Our country is once again the target of a terrorist attack, with a large number of victims," Niger's president said earlier Thursday.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Niger's capital, Niamey. However, Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, operate in the region and sporadically launch cross-border raids. Despite the intervention of French troops in 2013 that pushed the extremists from their strongholds in northern Mali, they continue attacks.
Boko Haram, based south in Nigeria, has also staged several attacks in Niger near its border.
U.S. Africa Command said the U.S. forces are in Niger to provide training and security assistance to the Nigerien Armed Forces in their efforts against violent extremists.
The two wounded U.S. service members were evacuated in stable condition to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, U.S. Africa Command said in its statement.
The commandos, who were Green Berets, were likely attacked by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb militants, said U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident publicly.
The White House said President Donald Trump was notified about the attack Wednesday night as he flew aboard Air Force One from Las Vegas to Washington.
Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad are putting together a 5,000-strong G5 Sahel force to fight the growing threat from extremists in the vast Sahel region. The first units are expected to deploy in October and all battalions should be on the ground by March 2018.
The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution in June welcoming the deployment, but at U.S. insistence it did not include any possibility of U.N. financing for the force.
The countries have been pressing the international community to help funding and in equipping troops and ensuring their mobility and help with logistics, communications and protection in the field.
That force will operate in the region along with a 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali, which has become the deadliest in the world for U.N. peacekeepers, and France's 5,000-strong Barkhane military operation, its largest overseas mission.