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Originally published March 13, 2012 at 8:47 PM | Page modified March 14, 2012 at 12:04 AM

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Accused Lewis-McChord soldier was with 3rd (Stryker) Brigade

The Joint Base Lewis-McChord staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was deployed to Afghanistan in December with the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, according to an Army memo.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Joint Base Lewis-McChord staff sergeant accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians was deployed to Afghanistan in December with the 3rd (Stryker) Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, according to an Army memo provided to Congress. He then was assigned on Feb. 1 to a special-operations team in Kandahar province, where he is alleged to have carried out the murders Sunday.

The staff sergeant is being held at Kandahar Airfield as Army officials review his deployment and medical history, according to the memo.

The Army is not expected to release his identify until formal charges are filed.

As he headed off to Afghanistan, the soldier was attached to the oldest of the Lewis-McChord brigades built around the eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles.

The 3rd Brigade, when it deployed to Iraq in 2003, was the first to take the Strykers into a war zone. The brigade returned to Iraq twice and was involved in major fighting as the insurgency intensified.

The brigade lost 108 soldiers during the three tours in Iraq. A memorial to the dead was the gathering point for a ceremony last fall to mark the unit's departure for 12 months in southern Afghanistan.

Because his military record hasn't been released, it is unclear how long the staff sergeant has served with the 3rd Brigade or if any of his three deployments to Iraq were with the unit.

The 3rd Brigade sent more than 2,200 soldiers to Afghanistan. One — 24-year-old Lt. David Johnson — has died there, according to a Lewis-McChord spokesman. Most of the brigade is based in Zabul province, where NATO forces have begun to shift more responsibility to their Afghan counterparts.

The staff sergeant, less than four months into his deployment, was reassigned to Camp Belambi, a small outpost in Panjwai district, in neighboring Kandahar province. That district once was a staging ground for Taliban forces, but NATO forces in the past three years have made a major push to gain more control of the area.

Hal Bernton: 206-464-2581

or hbernton@seattletimes.com

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