The 1-113th Cav. is part of the 3,000-soldier deployment to Afghanistan of the Iowa National Guard's 2nd Brigade Combat Team (B.C.T.), 34th Infantry "Red Bull" Division (2-34th BCT). As "Task Force Red Bulls," most of the 2-34th BCT is responsible for helping the Afghan government, military, and police secure the provinces of Parwan, Panjshir, and Laghman, as well as portions of others. Some units deployed with 2-34th BCT deployed have been assigned under other task forces and other provinces, but Kapisa is not one of them.
Coalition forces operating in Eastern Afghanistan, to include Task Force Red Bulls, are assigned under the active-duty Army's 101st Airborne Division, which operates as "Combined Joint Task Force-101" (C.J.T.F.-101). According to the CJTF-101 website, Kapisa Province is the responsibility of Task Force La Fayette, comprising French coalition forces.
According to Iowa National Guard officials at a Sunday night press conference at Camp Dodge, the Alpha Troop soldiers had earlier conducted a patrol in the Parwan security zone surrounding Bagram Air Field ("BAF"), when CJTF-101 requested soldiers to immediately secure a Kiowa scout helicopter that had made a "hard landing" in Kapisa Province. The cause of that landing is still under investigation. The Iowa soldiers were assigned the QRF mission because they were "readily available" at Bagram Air Field, said Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood.
While guard officials were unable to characterize either the type of weapons or the intensity of the attack that killed Justice and injured Durham, they did say that Justice died at the scene. After the QRF traveled from Bagram to the crash site via UH-60 "Blackhawk" helicopters, landed, and came under attack, "pathfinders" trained in establishing landing zones were dispatched from 101st Airborne Division and inserted into an area south of the crash site. Air Force pararescuemen were also dispatched and inserted near or onto the site.
According to Iowa guard officials, a U.S. Air Force A-10 "Warthog" and additional armed U.S. Army Kiowa helicopters arrived to eliminate the immediate enemy threat. Justice was reportedly killed and Durham wounded while moving off their landing zone, which at the time was considered "hot" and still under fire. Durham has since been evacuated to Craig Joint Theater Hospital, Bagram Air Field. His injuries were not specified by officials.
Justice is a 13-year veteran of the Iowa National Guard, and deployed to Afghanistan with the 2-34th BCT only last February. "One of his goals was to get on this deployment," said Sgt. 1st Class Kevin Schaefer at Sunday evening's press conference. "He wanted to get into the fight." Prior to mobilization, he was employed full-time by the Iowa National Guard, and Schaefer had been his supervisor. Schaefer described Justice as level-headed, hard-working, and easy to talk with. "He had an ability to lead soldiers and have them follow."
Justice had previously deployed to Kuwait (2001), Egypt's Sinai Peninsula (2003-2004), and Iraq (2005-2006).
Justice is survived by his wife, Amanda Jo, and a 3-year-old daughter Caydence Lillian, of Grimes; his father and mother, Larry and Lillian Justice, brother Kenny Justice, sisters Denise Christensen and Christy (Kevin) Lingle of Manilla.
A family statement released via the Iowa National Guard reads in part:
James Alan Justice meant many things to every person he encountered. He was the funny best friend named "Juice" that could be counted on when needing to be cheered up; the uncle who always knew just what to say and when to hand out hugs; the son who was his parents' pride and joy; the father who loved his little girl more than anything in the world and couldn't wait to have more children; and the husband who loved to put a smile on his wife's face.Funeral arrangements for Justice are pending.
Earlier this month, two other Iowa National Guard "Red Bull" soldiers were killed and others wounded in separate combat incidents, and in different Afghan provinces.