Nevada Guard in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years
CARSON CITY – More than 1,250 Nevada Army Guard Soldiers served in Afghanistan on 19 separate unit activations between 2003-2021, according to statistics from the Nevada Army Guard’s plans and operations section. There are no Nevada Army Guard units or Soldiers currently in Afghanistan as its government transitions to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Two Nevada Army Guard Soldiers, Chief Warrant Officer 4 John Flynn and Sgt. Patrick Steward, never returned to the Silver State and died in Afghanistan when their CH-47 Chinook helicopter “Mustang 22” was shot down in southern Zabul in 2005. Twenty-two Nevada Army Guard Soldiers received Purple Heart medals for injuries associated with Operation Enduring Freedom, the official name of military operations in Afghanistan through 2014.
Additionally, more than 700 Nevada Air Guardsmen deployed for a variety of missions over the course of the past two decades. These assignments weren’t always by unit, but more by individual personnel, bringing the total of Nevada Army and Air Guardsmen who deployed to Afghanistan to about 1,900.
The first Nevada Army Guard unit tasked for duty in Afghanistan, 2/238th Aviation, was also the last unit out of Afghanistan, likely due to the unit’s invaluable ability to perform medical evacuation missions on the battlefield aboard its UH-60L Black Hawk helicopters. The unit’s nomenclature was 126th Medical Company, Detachment 1 when it became the first Nevada Army Guard unit with seven Soldiers’ stepping foot in Afghanistan in January 2003. The 126th completed its mission and was back home by Sept. 2003.
The 2/238th was ultimately the last Nevada Army Guard unit to leave Afghanistan. The majority of 2/238th Soldiers were home by last autumn from their 60-Soldier deployment that began in April 2020, but five of the unit’s Soldiers remained in the country through January. The entire deployment was completed in the midst of the constraints of the global pandemic and the unit recorded 1,811 flights and completed 77 medical evacuations during its latest deployment. Four of the state’s 19 unit deployments to Afghanistan were made by the 238th.
The Nevada Army Guard’s second deployment to Afghanistan also proved to be its most tragic. On January 2, 2005, about 125 Soldiers from Company D, 113th Aviation mobilized in Reno and deployed to Afghanistan ready to provide personnel and cargo transports aboard its CH-47 Chinook helicopters.
Nine months into their deployment on Sept. 25, 2005, Flynn, Stewart, Oregon Guardsmen Warrant Officer Adrian Stump 3 and Sgt. Tane Baum and active duty Sgt. Kenneth Ross of Arizona were killed when they were shot down by a Taliban-fired rocket-propelled grenade. A memorial to the five Soldiers killed aboard Mustang 22 remains on permanent display at the Army Aviation Support Facility, 20,000 Army Aviation Drive in Reno. They remained the only Nevada Guard casualties—both Army and Air—the organization suffered in Afghanistan. Also in 2005, Nevada Specialist Anthony Cometa, a Humvee gunner, was killed in Iraq.
The largest unit deployment began in April 2009 when 631 Soldiers in 1st Squadron, 221st Cavalry mobilized to provide security platoons to 12 provincial reconstruction teams across Afghanistan. They returned intact in May 2010 with no combat deaths despite incurring more than 20 serious injuries.