Utah guardsman killed in Afghanistan identified

Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-17 20:46:47-04

KABUL, Afghanistan — A member of the Utah Guard was killed and 11 others were injured Wednesday during combat operations in Afghanistan.

Aaron Butler, 27, of Monticello, died "when he entered a booby-trapped building that exploded while his group was fighting members of the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan," according to a family friend.

Governor Gary Herbert said a 12-member team was clearing a building for safety in Eastern Afghanistan.

“As they were clearing a building for safety purposes issues there, the building was booby-trapped, there was an explosion,” Herbert said. "...They are members of our Utah National Guard team and certainly, it’s tragedy for them and a tragedy for all of us... I will be reaching out to [the families Thursday] to make sure that they know of our love and concern and our thoughts and prayers are with them.”

Major General Jefferson Burton, the commanding officer for the Utah National Guard, also spoke about the loss.

"What we do is inherently dangerous," he said. "Our hearts go out to the families of these great soldiers; we love them, and it's very painful when we lose them."

According to a press release from the Utah National Guard, the service members were on a mission in Eastern Afghanistan and were partnered with Afghan Forces “aimed at further reducing Islamic State of Iraq and Syrian-Khorasan presence in Afghanistan.”

"We lost one soldier from the Utah National Guard," Maj. Gen. Burton said. "Initially it was seven wounded, that number has gone up to 11."

The press release states wounded personnel have been medically evacuated and that the military is working to notify the next of kin.

"We send a chaplain," Maj. Gen. Burton said. "We send a casualty assistance officer and we stay with that family for a long, long time after the event to make sure that they are cared for."

San Juan County Commissioners released a statement Thursday, mourning Butler's death and saying he will be remembered for his selfless service. The full statement is below:

"Yesterday, while on a mission in Afghanistan, Aaron Butler was killed by enemy forces.

Our hearts are broken. We are devastated. Our prayers and support are sent to the Butler family at this sad time.

We will remember Aaron as a man that gave his life so that we may continue to live in the land of the free. His selfless service will not go unremembered or unthanked because we will remember and show gratitude to his family.

We also send our prayers to the other members of Aaron's unit that were wounded during the mission and wish them a speedy recovery.

May we never take our freedoms for granted or let a day go by without showing gratitude to the men and women who fight for our country."