A 29-year-old soldier from Southern California was among three service members killed Saturday in Afghanistan.
Sgt. William M. Bays, 29 of Barstow was killed during a joint U.S.-Afghan military operation in the Achin district of Nangarhar province. The service members were killed when an Afghan soldier opened fire in an apparent insider attack, U.S. officials told NBC News.
Bays was an infantryman in Company D, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He joined the Army in August 2009.
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, according to the Department of Defense.
The Department of Defense identified the slain soldiers Monday as Bays, Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 25, of Baltimore, Maryland and Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge, 22 of Youngsville, North Carolina.
A fourth U.S. soldier was wounded.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of our Soldiers who were killed and wounded said General John W. Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan. "We will always remember our fallen comrades and remain committed to the mission they carried out and for which they ultimately gave their lives."
In March, an Afghan soldier was killed after he opened fire on foreign forces at a base in Helmand province, wounding three U.S. soldiers.