Sgt. 1st Class Dustin B. Ard, 31, of Idaho Falls, Idaho, died Thursday during combat operations in Zabul Province, becoming the third American service member killed in the country in just over a week.
Ard was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington state, as a Special Forces Communications Sergeant.
He was on his second deployment to Afghanistan and had also participated in multiple training exercises in Indonesia.
There have now been 18 U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan this year, 15 of them in combat-related incidents -- the highest number recorded by the Defense Department since 2014.
On Aug. 21, two U.S. Army Green Berets were killed during combat operations in Faryab Province in northern Afghanistan. Master Sgt. Luis F. Deleon-Figueroa, 31, and Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35, were assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) based at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
On Thursday, President Donald Trump told Fox News Radio that the U.S. would draw down to 8,600 troops in Afghanistan, down from the current number of about 14,000. The Taliban publicly rejected that idea.
However, peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban continue in Doha, Qatar.
Born on October 4, 1987, Ard enlisted in the Army in Hyde Park, Utah, in 2011, as a Special Forces candidate through the 18X program. He was assigned to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and attended Special Forces Assessment and Selection.
He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2015.
"Sgt. 1st Class Ard's loss is felt across our 1st Special Forces Group Family," said Col. Owen G. Ray, the commander of the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne). "Our priority now is to take care of his family and our Soldiers and provide the best possible care that we can during this incredible time of need."
His military education includes the Basic, Advanced, and Senior Leader Courses; U.S. Army Airborne School; Military Free Fall Course; Special Operations Joint Terminal Attack Controller Course; Special Operations Sensitive Site Exploitation Course; Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape School; Korean Special Operations Language Course; and the Special Forces Qualification Course.
Ard's awards and decorations include the Bronze Star Medal; Army Achievement Medal; Army Good Conduct Medal (second award); National Defense Service Medal; Afghanistan Campaign Medal (Campaign Star); Global War on Terrorism Service Medal; Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (third award); Army Service Ribbon; NATO Medal; Army Special Forces Tab; Combat Infantry Badge; Parachutist Badge and Military Free Fall Parachutist Badge.
Ard was promoted to Sgt. 1st Class on Aug. 1 and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.