Soldier raised in Mesa injured by rogue Afghan guard - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Soldier raised in Mesa injured by rogue Afghan guard

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Posted: Thursday, March 24, 2011 6:16 pm | Updated: 1:42 pm, Sat Mar 26, 2011.

A U.S. Army soldier who grew up in Mesa and was readying to go on a mission near Kabul, Afghanistan, was among four soldiers injured and two others killed in an incident involving a privately hired “rogue security guard” who opened fire inside their barracks with an AK-47 on Saturday.

Sgt. Patrick Shelley, 22, is in serious but stable condition in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany following an incident where he was the first among a group of American soldiers to be shot inside their barracks. The unit was sitting on bunks cleaning their guns, according to Shelley’s aunt, Kenetta McDonald, who lives in Mesa.

Shelley, who is assigned to the Army’s 4th Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment in Vilsek, Germany, according to the Department of Defense, was writing down a roster of soldiers in a notebook when a man who was a private security guard from a company with whom the U.S. Army contracts and was Afghan, entered the barracks and began shooting the soldiers. Shelley was shot four times, once in the neck, twice in the shoulder and once in the side, causing a vertebrae to be fractured, shattering his collarbone and breaking his shoulder.

He has feeling in his back, but cannot move because of his injuries, according to his mother, Norma Garza, who lives in Mesa. However, he is expected to recover.

“He’s lucky to be alive,” Garza said. “I want to know why this happened. He said all the men were getting ready to go on a patrolling mission when the security guard walked into the barracks and just started firing. He remembers the shooting starting, but nothing after that. He was shot in the back, so I don’t know if he would’ve seen anything..

 “I want to know why the Army is contracting with these private companies to conduct security on our own bases,” she said.

Wounded in the same incident were Sgt. Christopher J. Hemwall of Michigan, Sgt. Zack Hombel of Washington state and Spc. Curtis L. Cole of Tennessee, according to the 2nd Cavalry Association website.

Killed by the security guard were Cpl. Donald Mickler Jr., 29, of Bucyrus, Ohio; and Pfc. Rudy Acosta, 19, of Canyon Country, Calif., according the Department of Defense.

The security guard, Shir Ahmad, worked for Afghan-owned Tundra Security, also was killed after three soldiers returned fire, and an investigation into the incident is ongoing. The guard was hired March 9 to help provide security for the Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Argandab Valley in the Kandahar Province where Shelley was stationed. Tundra provides physical security services to local and foreign government organizations throughout Afghanistan, according to the company’s website. Tundra SCA is a sister company of Tundra Strategies and is licensed to operate as an armed security provider by the Afghan Ministry of Interior.

The slayings bring to nine the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed by rogue Afghan security force members, whether uniformed or private security contractors, in the past two months, according to the Department of Defense.

Garza spoke with Shelley on Thursday morning after he had surgery to clean out his wounds, and said she received a phone call from Shelley’s grandmother in Marana about 3 a.m. on Saturday informing her of the incident. He had lived with his grandmother as a teenager.

Shelley, who graduated from Arizona Project Challenge in Queen Creek, has been in the Army for five years, his mother said. He was promoted to sergeant about a month ago, recently re-enlisted and has been on tours both in Iraq and in Afghanistan, according to Garza and McDonald.

Shelley is married, but does not have any children, his mother said.

McDonald said, “How does something like this happen? It’s bad enough that they are over there, but to be in their own quarters where someone can come in and shoot them, isn’t good.

She added: “Patrick said incidents involving Afghan members of the coalition turning on American soldiers happens a lot, and it isn’t being aired out.”

McDonald also said that Shelley feels bad for what happened, but also had sent some of the soldiers back to their rooms because they weren’t going to send a lot of them out on the mission.

“More men could have been in the barracks when the shooting happened,” McDonald said. “It could have been worse.”

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6533 or msakal@evtrib.com

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