National Guard soldier from North Carolina dies in Afghanistan

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A 23-year-old soldier from Morehead City died Thursday in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the North Carolina Army National Guard said.

Sgt. James Allen Slape was wounded by an improvised explosive device, spokesman Lt. Col. Matthew DeVivo said in a news release.

Slape had gotten out of his vehicle and was working to clear the area of explosives when a bomb detonated, said Commander Grant Neeley, a spokesman for Resolute Support, a NATO-led mission to train and advise Afghan security forces.

In a written statement, Neeley said Slape was evacuated to a medical facility, but staff there were unable to save him.

No further details were immediately available. An investigation has been opened, the National Guard said, citing the Department of Defense.

Slape was assigned to the North Carolina National Guard’s 60th Troop Command, 430th Explosive Ordnance Company, based in Washington, N.C., about 110 miles east of Raleigh. The unit went to Afghanistan in April, scheduled to return the following spring, the National Guard said.

Slape joined the National Guard in 2013 and graduated from Explosive Ordnance School in 2015. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant following his death.

In a news release, Maj. Gen. Greg Lusk, adjutant general of the North Carolina National Guard said he was deeply saddened by the news of Slape’s death. “We honor his courage, his selfless service and we extend our deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and fellow Soldiers as we hold them firmly in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time.”

Gov. Roy Cooper also expressed sympathy to Slape’s family and fellow soldiers in a written statement. “National Guard members step up and answer the call to service wherever they are needed, whether at home to help during a natural disaster or overseas to protect our national security. They leave their homes, their families and their jobs and put their lives on the line for us.”

There are roughly 550 N.C. Army National Guard soldiers overseas, including about 340 in Afghanistan, DeVivo said in a phone interview.

Slape was the 26th N.C. Army National Guard soldier to be killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.

Brosseau 919-829-4627; @carlibrosseau

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