The Pentagon has identified the soldier killed by a roadside bomb outside the Iraqi city of Mosul Saturday.
First Lt. Weston C. Lee, 25, of Bluffton, Georgia, was an infantry officer from the 82nd Airborne Division and was on patrol at the time of his death, according to an emailed statement from his unit.
Lee joined the Army in 2015 and deployed to Iraq in December. He was a platoon leader and died on his first deployment.
“1st Lieutenant Wes Lee was an extraordinary young man and officer. He was exactly the type of leader that our Paratroopers deserve,” Col. Pat Work, commander of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, said in the statement. “Our sincere condolences and prayers are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
Lee was awarded the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service Medal posthumously.
Lee’s death marks the fifth U.S. combat death in Iraq since the start of the campaign against the Islamic State there in 2014, and the first during the Trump administration. In October, Navy Chief Petty Officer Jason C. Finan was killed by a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Mosul just days after the battle to retake the city began.
Since 2003, 4,519 U.S. troops have died in Iraq from both hostile fire and noncombat incidents, according to the website iCasualties.org.
There are more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq assisting the country’s military in its fight against the Islamic State. Some of the U.S. forces are in roles that bring them close and sometimes to the front lines. The Pentagon has stressed that the U.S. military is not directly fighting the Islamic State on the ground, instead saying the troops are in fire support and advisory positions. Often, however, U.S. troops are spotted on the front lines calling in airstrikes and assisting local forces.
The Islamic State seized Mosul in June 2014 and has fought doggedly to retain the group’s largest stronghold in Iraq. Iraqi troops, backed by U.S.-led air power, have been forced to clear the city from east to west. The city’s labyrinth of small streets, alleys and rooftops has proved to be a boon for Islamic State fighters, helping them launch a relentless number of ambushes, suicide vehicle bombings and sniper attacks against advancing Iraqi soldiers.