27-year-old Utah soldier killed in Afghanistan identified


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DRAPER, UT (KSL) — The family of a Utah Army National Guard member killed in Afghanistan has confirmed their loved one was from Monticello.

Aaron Butler, 27, a Special Forces soldier, was killed, Butler’s family confirmed to the San Juan Record. Butler is one of four soldiers who graduated with honors from the Army Green Beret Special Forces Qualification Course in January 2016, according to the family.

Butler was among a group of 12 Utah National Guardsmen clearing a building in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday when a bomb went off.

“They were clearing a building for safety purposes. The building was booby trapped. There was an explosion,” Gov. Gary Herbert said during a news conference Thursday morning.

The other 11 suffered “various degrees of injury,” Herbert said. Eight of those involved are Utah residents and three live out of state, though they are all members of the Utah National Guard.

The governor said he would personally be calling the families of all 12 service members today to offer support.

Herbert said the incident serves as a reminder for everyone that the war on terrorism continues.

“Our men and women are serving in very difficult places throughout the world,” he said.

The Guard was originally expected to release the name of the person killed Thursday, but officials were informed just before a morning news conference that Department of Defense protocol did not allow them to do that.

That Utah National Guard is not allowed to release the names of those involved until all families had been notified and 24 hours has passed, Herbert said. The Department of Defense, however, could release that information on its own at an earlier time, possibly by Thursday night.

The mood among the Utah National Guard was “very somber” Thursday, Guard spokeswoman Ileen Kennedy said.

The service members were on a mission in eastern Afghanistan aimed at reducing the Islamic State group’s presence there, according to a statement from the Utah National Guard released Wednesday. Afghan military forces also were on the mission.

“My heart aches for the loss and sacrifice of our members and their families,” said Maj. Gen. Jefferson Burton, adjutant general of the Utah National Guard. “I know that what we do is dangerous and important work for our country’s defense, but this realization does little to console me during times of loss such as this.”

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, released a statement on the incident Thursday.

“I am grateful to all who put their lives at risk in the defense of our nation and freedom. At this time, I pray for the family of the Utah National Guardsman whose life was lost in Afghanistan, as well as the other service members who were injured during this operation,” Bishop said.

Currently, 133 members of the Utah National Guard are actively deployed in that region of Afghanistan.