3 Fort Campbell soldiers killed in gunfire in Afghanistan

Photo: WKRN

FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (WKRN) – Three 101st Airborne Division soldiers out of Fort Campbell died Saturday in Afghanistan, according to Army officials and the Department of Defense.

The three soldiers have been identified as Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, North Carolina; Sgt. Eric Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; and Sgt. William Bays, 29, of Barstow, California.

They died June 10 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of gunshot wounds. Defense department officials confirm a member of the Afghan military shot them. No other details are being released at this time as the incident is currently under investigation.

The soldiers were part of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team “Rakkasans,” which deployed in the fall of 2016 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel.

Cpl. Dillon Baldridge (Courtesy: Fort Campbell)

According to Fort Campbell, Baldridge was assigned as a squad leader who joined the Army in February 2013 and arrived at Fort Campbell in August 2016. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal with three oak clusters, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Expert Infantryman Badge.

Baldridge was posthumously promoted to Sgt. and earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart,
Combat Infantry Badge and the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards.

Sgt. William Bays (Courtesy: Fort Campbell)

Bays was assigned as a Squad Leader who joined the Army in August 2009 and arrived at Fort Campbell in August 2014. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Assault Badge and the Driver and Mechanic Badge.

Bays posthumously earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantry Badge and
Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards.

Sgt. Eric Houck (Courtesy: Fort Campbell)

Houck was assigned as a Fire Support Sergeant who joined the Army in May 2013 and arrived at Fort
Campbell in March 2016. His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Army Superior Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, The Army NCO Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, the NATO Medal and the Air Assault Badge.

Houck posthumously earned the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Action Badge and Army Commendation Medal with a second oak leaf cluster for his end of tour awards.

Sgt. Jamarr Sloan didn’t know the soldiers who were killed, but he didn’t have to. He said the Army is like family, and losing fellow soldiers hits home.

“We’re a big family here and everybody is together, bond, one love,” Sgt. Sloan told News 2. “To have something like that to happen, it’s a huge tragedy, especially for the community.”

Sloan said it could have been him.

“I could be deplored tomorrow any time, any moment, and if that happens, it could be me that ends up in that situation,” he told News 2. “For any of these other 30,000 or 40,000 soldiers that we have on here anytime can be called to go wherever, and something tragic like that can happen.”

“Heartbroken because it hit so close to home,” said Clarksville resident Bridgette Churchwell.

Her husband, Sgt. Donnell Churchwell Sr., retired about four years ago from Fort Campbell. She knows what the families of the three soldiers are going through.

“I understand their pain and just recently I had a friend whose son got killed over in Jordan, Isiah Booker, and you know, you can’t understand how these things happen; and it just – it hurts a lot,” Churchwell told News 2.

“Even though the number of killed by the so-called friendly forces seems to be dwindling, the numbers are still significant enough to cause a real problem, and any death we have over there should be a great concern not only where the soldiers live, but for the national leadership,” said Retired Lt. General Hugh Smith Army.

Sgt. Smith said it’s time to rethink the strategy in Afghanistan.

“You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” he explained. “If you pull out, you’re showing signs of weakness, as far as the enemy is concerned. If you stay, you’re going to expend national resources and suffer causalities.”

There are still a lot of unanswered questions, but since the case is still under investigation, the military is not releasing any additional information.