FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- The Defense Department says three U.S. soldiers who werewere part of the 101st Airborne Division based at Fort Campbell, a sprawling Army post on the Kentucky-Tennessee line.
A statement on Monday identified the soldiers as Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland; Sgt. William M. Bays, 29, of Barstow, California; and Cpl. Dillon C. Baldridge, 22, of Youngsville, North Carolina.
The statement says the soldiers died June 10 in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan, of gunshot wounds. The shooting is under investigation.
The Afghan army said one of its soldiers turned his gun on the Americans before he was shot dead. The Taliban claimed the gunman was one of their own.
Houck was a dedicated soldier and father of two who had left his home state of Maryland on his first overseas deployment just eight months before he was killed, his father says. He was scheduled to return home next month.
In Washington, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer acknowledged the deaths during his regular press briefing Monday.
"I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the three service members that were killed this weekend in Afghanistan. The incident is currently under investigation, but our thoughts and our prayers are with the families of these American heroes who've lost their lives in this tragic event," Spicer told reporters.
Houck enlisted a few years after graduating from high school in the Baltimore suburbs. He had married his high school sweetheart and found in military duty a way to support his growing family and serve his country, his father said. The soldier leaves behind two young children.
"He was a husband and father first," said his father, Mike Houck. "He was a son and brother, and then he was a soldier. His family was the most important thing to him." He also loved playing soccer, football and baseball.
Mike Houck also said he was nervous when he first learned his only son would be deploying.
"If he was nervous, he didn't let on," Houck added. "He took it bravely, as his responsibility as a soldier. He was unwavering in his dedication to that. But as a parent you're nervous every day."
Houck began his military career as a private and rose to the rank of sergeant in just three years, his father said, adding his son was responsible for traveling in forward positions with the infantry and directing airstrikes.
"He was exemplary," Houck said, adding, "he was a hell of a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a soldier."