Fort Carson honors Justin Clouse, Aaron Toppen, killed in friendly fire

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Fort Carson is honoring two of its soldiers who were killed in one of the deadliest friendly fire incidents in Afghanistan.

A memorial service for Cpl. Justin Clouse and Pvt. Aaron Toppen, both members of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, will be held Thursday. The ceremony will include a rifle squad salute and the playing of Taps.

Clouse was 22 and from the tiny town of Sprague, Washington. He enlisted in the Army shortly after graduating from high school and was on his second tour in Afghanistan.

"He always wanted to serve his country," his mother, Tina Clouse told the Spokane Spokesman-Review newspaper.

Toppen was 19 and from Mokena, Illinois outside Chicago. He deployed in March after staying behind for his father's funeral.

His family was suffering a "double hit" of grief, Toppen's sister, Amanda Gralewski, told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Three other soldiers from other posts were also killed in the airstrike, which was called in after their unit was ambushed by the Taliban.

The deaths occurred during a joint operation of Afghan and NATO forces in the Arghandab district of southern Zabul province ahead of Afghanistan's presidential runoff election, said provincial police chief Gen. Ghulam Sakhi Rooghlawanay. After the operation was over, the troops came under attack from the Taliban and called in air support, he said.

The Associated Press reported that special operations forces often come under fire on joint operations and are responsible for calling in air support when needed. Because of constraints placed by President Hamid Karzai, such airstrikes are usually called "in extremis," when troops fear they are about to be killed.

Of the 30,000 or so U.S. troops left in Afghanistan, special operations forces are among the only ones that are active on the battlefield, mentoring and advising Afghan commandos during raids.

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