The Army has identified two Special Forces soldiers killed in Afghanistan on Wednesday, as the casualties in the country hit the highest level in five years.
Master Sgt. Luis F. DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, were killed during combat operations in Faryab province, located in the far northwest of Afghanistan along the border with Turkmenistan.
Both soldiers were assigned to 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. They were posthumously promoted to master sergeant.
“It was an honor having them serve within the ranks of 7th SFG (A). They were a part of our family, and will not be forgotten,” said Col. John W. Sannes, 7th Group commander, in a statement.
“Our priority is to now provide the best possible care to the families of our fallen warriors,” Sannes added. “We ask that you keep their families and teammates in your thoughts and prayers.”
Gonzalez, a native of La Puente, California, first arrived at 7th Group’s 1st Battalion in 2014. He had served 17 years in the military, previously deploying twice as a Marine in 2003 and 2005, as well as an Army infantryman in 2009.
Gonzalez completed Special Forces Qualification Course in 2014. As a Green Beret, he deployed to South America in 2014 and 2018, and to Afghanistan in 2016 and 2019.
His awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, the Purple Heart, two Army Commendation Medals and the Combat Action Ribbon. During his career, he earned the Special Forces Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Parachutist Badge and the Special Operations Diver Supervisor Badge.
DeLeon-Figueroa was a native of Chicopee, Massachusetts, who had served more than 13 years in the Army and deployed six times during his career.
He deployed as an infantryman to Iraq in 2008, and to Afghanistan in 2010. As a Green Beret, he deployed to South America in 2015 and 2018, and to Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019.
DeLeon-Figueroa completed the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 1st Battalion, 7th Group, in 2014 — first as a Special Forces communications sergeant, or 18E, and then as a Special Forces operations and intelligence sergeant, or 18F.
DeLeon-Figueroa’s awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal, the Army Commendation Medal with valor device, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with two Campaign Stars, the Iraq Campaign Medal with one Campaign Star and the NATO Medal.
During his career, DeLeon-Figueroa was a recipient of the Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Military Free Fall Jumpmaster Badge, Parachutist Badge and Air Assault Badge.
The two Green Beret deaths bring the number of U.S. troops killed in action this year to 14, according to Defense Department figures. Another 85 U.S. service members have been wounded so far this year.
Another Green Beret was killed by small arms fire in Faryab in July. The last two U.S. deaths in Afghanistan were paratroopers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, who were killed in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan province, in a suspected insider attack in late July.
This year has been the deadliest for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the mission to the country scaled down in 2015 and changed names from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.
The previous highest annual death toll for U.S. troops since the new mission began was reached last year with 13 troops killed. In 2014, roughly 40 U.S. troops were killed.
The latest deaths come on the same day that the Taliban and U.S. diplomats reportedly resumed peace negotiations in Qatar. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met one-on-one with the Taliban’s lead negotiator, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to the Associated Press.
Kyle Rempfer is an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq. Follow on Twitter @Kyle_Rempfer