A noncommissioned officer assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group’s support battalion at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was killed in a shooting Wednesday, according to Army officials.

Staff Sgt. Jimmy Lee Smith III was pronounced dead at the scene of the shooting in Raeford, North Carolina, according to an Army Special Operations Command release. The Hoke County Sheriff’s Office is investigating Smith’s death.

The soldier’s friends, superiors and teammates shared their grief and memories of Smith in statements accompanying the release.

Spc. Roenice Todd, a fellow member of the support battalion, mourned the loss of “a mentor, a shoulder to cry on, a comedian at times, but most of all a great friend.”

Another friend, Staff Sgt. Michael Zapata, remembered Smith as setting “the example of what a paratrooper should be,” and praised him for impacting “the lives of hundreds of other soldiers and paratroopers in the process.”

Smith’s commander, Col. John Bishop, described him as “an outstanding culinary specialist” and sought to comfort his family.

“Jimmy was a tremendous teammate and paratrooper,” said Bishop. “[But] more importantly, he was a great human being...Our thoughts, prayers, and condolences are with his loved ones, friends, and teammates through this incredibly difficult time.”

According to the release, Smith enlisted in 2016 and previously served with the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea and the 82nd Airborne Division.

The staff sergeant deployed to Jordan in 2020 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the release said. In addition to various service and campaign ribbons, Smith’s awards and badges included five Army Commendation Medals, five Army Achievement Medals and jump wings.

Smith’s death comes amid turmoil for the service’s special operations forces. At least 13 members of the command are under criminal investigation for alleged drug activity and were detained and questioned earlier this month.

Connecting Vets reported that the group’s 1st Battalion recalled all of its troops for a mandatory drug test on Jan. 8.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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