Two service members killed in what is being called one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in the 14-year war were Fort Carson soldiers, the Department of Defense confirmed over the weekend.
The DOD says 22-year-old Cpl. Justin Clouse, of Sprague, Washington, and 19-year-old Pvt. 2nd Class Aaron Toppen, of Mokena, Illinois, were killed during a combat operation in Gaza Village. They were assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson.
A senior police official in southern Afghanistan says U.S. and coalition troops had been taking part in a joint operation Tuesday with Afghan forces. Afterward, the troops came under attack from the Taliban, and called in air support.
He says the airstrike killed an Afghan soldier in addition to the five Americans.
The incident remains under investigation, but a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement after the incident that investigators "are looking into the likelihood that friendly fire was the cause."
"We do have reason to suspect friendly fire was the cause...specifically friendly fire from the air," Rear Adm. John Kirby said.
Clouse had been in the Army just short of two and half years at the time of his death. He had received several awards during his 28 months of service, including an Army Commendation Medal and Army Achievement Medal. He had been deployed twice to Afghanistan in his short military career.
Toppen joined the Army in July 2013, and had been deployed to Afghanistan since March. During his time in the service, he was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and Army Service Medal, among others.
Fort Carson released a statement Saturday.
"Statement from Fort Carson and to be attributed to Fort Carson officials: “It is always hard to lose a part of our military family. Our thoughts and prayers are with Corporal Clouse and Private Toppen's family and friends during this very difficult time.”