Army Spc. Brian Tabada of Las Vegas was killed Sunday in northeastern Afghanistan after insurgents ambushed his mounted patrol using small arms and rocket-propelled grenades, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.
Tabada, 21, was a fire-support specialist, or "fister," trained in calling in aircraft and artillery to quell attacks on NATO troops, according to the 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Ky.
The attack occurred in the Darah-ye Pech district of Afghanistan's Konar province.
Six NATO troops have been killed in attacks across Afghanistan in recent days, some of the deadliest for the international force this winter.
Tabada joined the Army in August 2008 and arrived at Fort Campbell in 2009. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division.
He was the 73rd U.S. military member with ties to Nevada who has died in the nation's wars overseas since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
He was the first Nevadan killed this year in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At Tabada's home in northwest Las Vegas, a Blue Star Mother's flag flapped from the top of the front porch Tuesday.
Tabada's mother, Leinette Mahan, already had departed for Dover, Del., to be there when his flag-draped casket is transferred from a military transport plane, said her friend, Aimee Caberto.
"He was like a big brother to my son," Caberto said, recalling how Tabada and her son, Aaron Sabino, would hang out together as teenagers while she and Mahan worked at the Stratosphere.
Mahan, now a food and beverage manager at the Plaza, told Caberto before she caught a plane for the East Coast, "I just want him to rest in peace."
Gov. Brian Sandoval issued a statement Tuesday morning after learning of Tabada's death:
"I was saddened to learn of the death of Spc. Brian Tabada of Las Vegas in service to his country. Spc. Tabada made the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever grateful. As our state mourns his loss, Kathleen and I extend our sympathies to his family."
Sandoval also ordered flags to fly at half staff in Tabada's honor.
Clark County School District records show Tabada entered May Elementary School as a fourth-grader in 1998 and attended Lied Middle School, Shadow Ridge High School and then Arbor View High School, where he was a sophomore in 2005. A district official said he moved out of state in 2005.
His military awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Combat Action Badge, Overseas Service Ribbon, North Atlantic Treaty Organization Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
In addition to his mother, he is survived by his father, Muncko Kruize of Honolulu.
Soldiers at Fort Campbell will pay their respects for him and other fallen members of the Screaming Eagles 101st Airborne Division on March 9 at the fort's monthly Eagle Remembrance Ceremony .
Information about a memorial service for him in Las Vegas was unavailable Tuesday.