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Orion N Sparks

Tucson, Arizona

September 26, 2012

Age Military Rank Unit/Location
29 Army SSG

1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team

Schweinfurt, Germany

 Killed in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the device near their patrol.

From The Stars & Stripes stripes.com 09/29/12:

2 paratroopers killed in Afghanistan were based in Germany
By Kevin Dougherty 
Stars and Stripes

Published: September 29, 2012
The Defense Department has identified two Germany-based soldiers who died Wednesday in a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan.

Killed were Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, 29, of Tucson, Ariz., and Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J. The soldiers were assigned to the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Schweinfurt, Germany.

The pair was killed while on a combat operation in Pul-e-Alam, about 60 miles south of Kabul in Logar province, according to a Facebook post by the regimental commander, Lt. Col. Whit Wright. Both were members of the same platoon in Anvil Troop. The posting was supplied to Stars and Stripes by U.S. Army Europe.

Sparks was “a contagious optimist who was always in good spirits,” Wright wrote.

The non-commissioned officer “could relate to soldiers on a personal level and helped guide them through life,” Wright continued. “Orion was an outstanding trainer of soldiers and a leader who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and lead from the front – a true NCO to the end. He was a cornerstone in Anvil Troop."

Gollnitz, the commander noted, “quickly filled a gap in the platoon's junior leadership. Bringing a quiet professionalism to his work, he was able to build a strong team of soldiers that trusted and respected him.”

“Jonathan,” Wright added, “was also able to communicate with soldiers on a personal level and would often speak of his son and his plans for the future."

Wright wrote that “several other paratroopers were wounded, one severely, in the same incident.” He reminded people that Gold Star Mother's Day is Sunday and asked for “an extra prayer for the mothers of Orion and Jonathan this year.”

A spokesperson for USAREUR said plans for a memorial service for both soldiers would be coordinated by officials in Schweinfurt.

Media reports Wednesday indicated the suicide attack was a car bombing and that it was followed by small arms and rocket fire. The soldiers were apparently defusing a bomb on the side of the road when the deadly assault occurred.

From The Tucson Sentinel tucsonsentinel.com 09/28/12:

Tucson soldier killed in Afghanistan
Updated Sep 28, 2012, 3:18 pm
Dylan Smith
TucsonSentinel.com
A Tucson soldier, Army Staff Sgt. Orion N. Sparks, was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan, the Department of Defense said Friday.

Sparks, 29, and another soldier were killed in Pul-E Alam, Afghanistan, when an insurgent wearing a suicide vest detonated the bomb near their patrol.

The soldiers were serving with the 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. The Schweinfurt, Germany-based unit was deployed in Logar province in eastern Afghanistan.

Including Sparks' death, 52 troops with Southern Arizona connections have been killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—20 in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion of that country.

The other soldier who was killed in the incident was identified as Sgt. Jonathan A. Gollnitz, 28, of Lakehurst, N.J.

Both men were members of Anvil Troop, according to the 1st Squadron's Facebook page.

Sparks "touched the lives of many soldiers during his time in Anvil. He is remembered as a contagious optimist who was always in good spirits. Someone that could relate to soldiers on a personal level and helped guide them through life. Orion was an outstanding trainer of soldiers and a leader who was not afraid to get his hands dirty and lead from the front. A true NCO to the end. He was a cornerstone in Anvil Troop," said a statement posted by Lt. Col. Whit Wright, the 173rd Airborne's commander.

"Several other paratroopers were wounded, one severely, in the same incident," Wright wrote.

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