Georgia soldier among those killed in ambush in Niger

by: KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press Updated:

ATLANTA (AP) - A Georgia soldier remembered by his family for his constant smile and his dedication to military service was one of four U.S. troops killed in an ambush in Niger, federal officials said Friday.

Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, died Wednesday in the attack, the Department of Defense said in a news release. He was assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.

U.S. officials say they believe extremists linked to the Islamic State group were responsible for the attack about 120 miles (200 kilometers) north of Niamey, the capital of the landlocked nation in western Africa.

The U.S. and Niger forces in a joint patrol were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders and were in trucks. They were ambushed by 40-50 militants in vehicles and on motorcycles.

Eight Niger soldiers and two U.S. troops were wounded. The officials weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Two of the other U.S. troops killed were also identified Friday: Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington, and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio. The body of the fourth soldier was found by Niger forces on Friday near where the ambush occurred and a name was not immediately released.

Wright, the third of four boys, was smaller than his brothers when he was young and always tried to keep up, but then grew up to be bigger than all of them, said his father, Arnold Wright.

He always had a smile on his face and liked to joke around, but could also be serious when needed and was a good student and talented athlete, Arnold Wright said by phone from Philadelphia, on his way home after going to Dover Air Force Base to meet his son's body.

Wright followed both of his parents and one brother into the Army.

The decision to join the military was one he thought about for several years, and he ended up joining just as his older brother, Will, was leaving the Army. Just 13 months apart, the two brothers shared a special bond over their shared military service, Will Wright said.

"He was an amazing special forces soldier and an amazing friend," Will Wright said.

Wright had previously done a tour in Niger and had been back home for about a year before he left again in early August. He was proud of his service and went into it knowing the dangers involved, his brother said.

"I know if you could ask him, he'd be glad that it was him," Will Wright said. "He'd be glad he's the one that went so somebody else's son could come home."

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Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

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