SCHOFIELD BARRACKS (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three more Hawaii soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan. It's the fifth loss in less than a week for Schofield's 25th Infantry Division.
The 25th ID's third brigade has only been in Afghanistan for two months, but it's already lost a total of 10 soldiers in battle since then. In this latest incident, the troops came under small arms fire. The soldiers were conducting a massive air assault operation in Kunar province - a rugged, mountainous area in northeastern Afghanistan.
"This is a violent region with the border of Pakistan," says Maj. David Bolender, the 25th ID spokesman. "This particular air assault was in support of counter-terrorism and counter-Taliban operations."
On the ground, a firefight broke out with insurgents. 24 year old First Lieutenant Dimitri Del Castillo of Tampa, Florida, 26 year old Staff Sergeant Nigel Kelly of Jennifer, California, and 28 year old Specialist Kevin Hillman of Albany, California were all M.I.T. This was Castillo's first deployment and the third for both Kelly and Hillman. All three are decorated soldiers.
It's a tough loss to take - coming less than a week after their comrades, Private First Class Joshua Jet ton and Specialist Levi Nuncio, died in an insurgent attack.
"Especially around this time of July 4th, probably the most sacred of American holidays, and it's around this time, especially, that our hearts will go out to them, and they'll be missed very much by the Tropic Lightning division."
It also comes less than a week after President Barrack Obama announced a gradual troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. A Pew Research Center poll - taken after the announcement - found that 44% of Americans think the President's timeline is "about right". 14% feel he's withdrawing troops too quickly, and 29% don't think it's quickly enough. The timeline has no effect on Hawaii's troops.
Bolender says, "As of right now, the 3rd brigade has a job to do, and the draw down announcement is not going to change the 3rd brigade, 25th Infantry Division's mission in Afghanistan."
The brigade is scheduled to return to Hawaii next spring.