Tricounty News

Five Minnesota Guard members injured

Five members of the Litchfield-based Minnesota Guard 849th Mobility Augmentation Company were injured in a suicide bombing in Afghanistan last week (Jan. 20).

One man was airlifted to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. He was identified as Litchfield native Staff Sgt. Robbie Sheets. He was hit in the leg and back by shrapnel, and is expected to return to his unit in Afghanistan.

The four other members of the unit who were injured were not identified. They are recovering in Afghanistan.

One American soldier, Chief Warrant Officer Edward Balli, 42, of Monterey, Calif. was killed in the attack.

Monday morning, Jan. 20, at around 10:30 a.m. when a small truck packed with explosives drove up to the main gate of the base. The driver triggered the explosion that killed himself and one American soldier. After the explosion, a minivan sped to the scene; eight gunmen in suicide vests and military fatigues jumped out. Their intent was to storm the base, but they only did moderate damage to the outer perimeter. All attackers were killed. The Taliban is claiming responsibility for the attack.

The unit is part of the operation winding down operations in Afghanistan. There are 95 members in the 948th, and there have been no combat-related injuries previous to this. They were deployed for one year, starting in July. Their primary duty is clearing roads of mines and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) in areas outside their base. There currently are about 250 Minnesota Guard members serving in Afghanistan.