Two soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan have been identified by the Pentagon as Special Forces Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, 32, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24.

Riley, who was on his sixth deployment to Afghanistan, was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Carson, Colorado, defense officials said on Thursday. Johnston served with the 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group at Fort Hood, Texas, defense officials announced.

Both were killed by small arms fire on Tuesday during combat operations in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, a Defense Department news release says. A total of nine U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan so far in 2019.

Riley was born in Germany in 1986 and joined the Army in 2006, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command. He graduated from U.S. Army Airborne School, U.S. Army Ranger School, and he was joined 10th Special Forces Group after completing the Special Forces Qualification Course in 2012.

His awards include the Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with three Campaign Stars, three Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbons, two Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbons, Combat Infantryman Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Driver and Mechanic Badge, and Marine Qualification Badge Expert-Rifle.

“It is with a heavy heart that we learn of the passing of Master Sgt. Micheal Riley in Afghanistan,” Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, commander of 10th Special Forces Group, said in a statement. “Mike was an experienced Special Forces noncommissioned officer and the veteran of five previous deployments to Afghanistan. We will honor his service and sacrifice as we remain steadfast in our commitment to our mission.”

Johnston joined the Army in 2013 and became an explosive ordnance disposal specialist, a Fort Hood news release says.

He deployed to Afghanistan in March.His military awards include the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Army Commendation Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Korea Defense Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Combat Action Badge, Senior Explosive Ordnance Disposal Badge, and Explosive Ordnance Badge.

“He was the epitome of what we as soldiers all aspire to be: intelligent, trained, always ready,” Johnston's battalion commander Lt. Col. Stacy Enyeart said in a statement. We will honor his service and his sacrifice to this nation as we continue to protect others from explosive hazards around the world.”

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