Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The Pentagon has identified two soldiers who were killed over the weekend when their vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
The Department of Defense on Sunday identified the soldiers as Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, 29, of Newport News, Va., and Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, 21, of Joliet, Ill.
The soldiers were in Afghanistan as part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel, the United State's counter-terrorism mission in the Middle Eastern country, and were killed while conducting operations as part of NATO's Resolute Support Mission.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Both soldiers were assigned to 307th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.
"When our nation called for its best Airborne Combat Engineers, SSG McLaughlin and Pfc. Villalon answered without hesitation," said Col. Art Sellers, commander of the Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in a statement. "They lived their motto 'Essayons' and embodied the values of the all-American engineer."
McLaughlin and Villalon are the first U.S. service members to be killed in Afghanistan this year.
More than 2,400 U.S. soldiers have died in combat in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001 following the 9/11 attacks.