Wahpeton soldier killed in Afghanistan

A soldier on patrol in northern Kandahar, Afghanistan.
Photo by JOHN D MCHUGH/AFP/Getty Images

National Guard spokesman Rob Keller says Cpl. Christopher Kleinwachter was taking part in military convoy operations in eastern Afghanistan when his vehicle rolled over. It's considered a non-combat accident.

Kleinwachter was a member of the 188th Air Defense Artillery's 1st Battalion. In all, there are 191 soldiers from the North Dakota National Guard serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Klerinwachter was a native of Grand Forks who enlisted in the Guard when he was still in high school. He repaired power generation equipment.

Guard commander Maj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk says members of the 188th are a tight group who have been shaken by the death.

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"Anytime there's a death in the family during the holiday season it's especially difficult," said Sprynczynatyk. "And when I talk about family, the North Dakota National Guard is a very close-knit group or close-knit family, and included in that family is not only soldiers but their families back home as well."

Sprynczynatyk says unit members recall Kleinwachter as a quiet guy who did his job well. He is the second member of the unit to die in Afghanistan in a week. Copl. Nathan Goodiron, 25, of Mandaree, died on Thanksgiving Day when his vehicle was hit by a grenade on patrol.

Twelve North Dakota soldiers have died in Afghanistan and Iraq. Sprynczynatyk says the soldiers have made a sacrifice he hopes people will remember.

"No one will easily be able to remember the names of everyone of the 12 soldiers, But I think the people of North Dakota and the people of America need to realize that men and women are fighting daily to protect those freedoms that we enjoy so much, and we need to make sure that we remember those that have given the ultimate sacrifice."

Sprynczynatyk was in Afghanistan with the troops in September. He says morale among the soldiers is good. Funeral services for Christopher Kleinwachter are pending.