Mark Alan Stets, Jr.
Staff Sergeant, United States Army
Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 098-10
DOD Identifies Army Casualties
The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of three soldiers who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. They died February 3, 2010, in Timagara, Pakistan, from wounds suffered when insurgents attacked their unit with an improvised explosive device.
Sergeant First Class David J. Hartman, 27, of Okinawa, Japan. He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Sergeant First Class Matthew S. Sluss-Tiller, 35, of Callettsburg, Kentucky He was assigned to the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (Airborne), 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Staff Sergeant Mark A. Stets, 39, of El Cajon, California. He was assigned to the 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
For more information media may contact the U.S. Army Special Operations Command public affairs office at 910-432-6005, or visit http://news.soc.mil.
4TH PSYCHOLOGICAL OPERATIONS GROUP
U.S. ARMY SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE
FORT BRAGG, NC 28310 / (910) 432-6005 http://news.soc.mil
Staff Sergeant Mark Alan Stets, Jr., 39, died February 3, 2010 of wounds suffered from an improvised explosive device today the Lower Dir District of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. He deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in November 2009.
Staff Sergeant Stets was a senior psychological operations (PSYOP) sergeant assigned to Alpha Company, 8th Psychological Operations Battalion (Airborne), 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
This was his second deployment in support of OEF. He also served in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He was a native of California and joined the U.S. Navy in 1989. He later joined the U.S. Army in 1995 as an artilleryman and then reclassified to become a PSYOP specialist in 2004.
His military education includes the Psychological Operations Qualification Course, Defense Language Institute, Warrior Leaders Course, Equal Opportunity Staff Officer Course, and U.S. Army Airborne School.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Army Achievement medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, National Defense Service Medals, Korean Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, South West Asia Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officers Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, Navy Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, Kuwait Liberation Medal (Saudi Arabia), Kuwait Liberation Medal, Joint Meritorious Unit Award, Navy Unit Citation.
His badges include the Parachutist Badge, and
the Driver Mechanic Badges for both wheeled and tracked vehicles.
-WORDS CONQUER –
May, a Lewiston resident, is hoping Stets’ death will serve as a reminder to all Americans of the sacrifice being made each day by members of the military just like him.
“The emphasis needs to be on the brave men and women who are fighting for a cause,” said May, whose nephew was killed Wednesday while on duty in Pakistan. “The politicians — I don’t care what they say. The focus needs to be on the men and women who are doing their jobs.”
Stets Jr., a Staff Sergeant with the U.S. Army Special Forces, was doing his job in Islamabad when a roadside bomb detonated, killing him and six other people. The 39-year-old was deployed to Pakistan as part of a non-combat training mission involving Pakistani security forces. He lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife and three daughters, but often visited Lewiston during the summer, spending time with May and her husband, Tom, and his grandparents, Karl Stets, the long-time woodshop teacher at Gaskill Junior High School in Niagara Falls, and Mary Elizabeth Stets, a former teacher at the old Military Road Elementary School in the Niagara-Wheatfield School District.
May said her nephew expressed an interest in the military at a young age and was particularly fond of the international air show held each year at the Niagara Falls International Airport.
“He was born to do what he did,” she said. “From the day he started walking, he always wanted to serve in the military. He always wanted to make a difference.”
Stets Jr. followed in the footsteps of his father, Mark Stets Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy. Stets Jr. also served in the Navy but switched to the Army after a single tour of duty. His military career spanned nearly two decades and included stints in Korea, Iraq, Iran and Pakistan.
May said he loved his work and his country.
“He was dedicated to his mission,” she said. “He loved what he was doing. He took pride in it.”
Stets Jr. was most recently deployed as a member of a Psychological Operations detachment out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The unit provided training to Pakistani security forces in an effort to help them combat al-Qaida members along the country’s border and to fight Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan. He was returning from a mission outside Islamabad when the remote bomb detonated.
While considered more of a non-combat mission, May said the family understood the danger he faced.
“It can happen to anybody at any time but you never think it’s going to happen to one of your own,” she said.
The Stets family was scheduled to receive the 39-year-old staff sergeant’s body Thursday at Dover Air Force Base. May said his body will be cremated and his remains will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery.
May asked residents in Niagara County to honor her nephew by either volunteering their time or donating money to local veterans service organizations.
“They need to be remembered,” she said. “They need to be taken care of, whether they served five minutes or their entire lives.”
4 February 2010:
It has learned that a Virginia Beach man was one of the U.S. soldiers killed Wednesday in a suicide bombing in northwest Pakistan.
Mark A. Stets, 39, was a 1989 graduate of Cox High School. He is survived by his parents, his wife and three daughters.
Stets was one of American special operations soldiers killed in the bombing in the former Pakistani Taliban stronghold of Lower Dir. Two other Americans were wounded.
According to a published report, Stets was based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and was part of a psychological operations detachment that was serving in Pakistan when he was killed.
The Defense Department has not identified the soldiers who were killed, but WAVY News 10 spoke with Stets' uncle, Eric Stets, on the phone Friday from his home in West Seneca, New York. He says the family is grieving.
"I know he was a dedicated military man and he believed strongly in what he did. He was very happy at what he did. That's why he chose to do this dangerous work."
He was a motorcycle enthusiast as well as myself," Stets told WAVY News 10. "We had plans of working on his motorcycle when he got back and we tried to keep positive thoughts. I told him keep his head down and stay safe."
"We're really, real proud of the fact that Mark Junior was willing to stand the wall for us doing something that he loved doing and protecting us," said Tommy Viar, a neighbor of the Stets family in Virginia Beach.
The killings were the first known U.S. military fatalities in nearly three years in Pakistan's Afghan border region, where militants are being pummeled by U.S. missile strikes and struggling to regroup following the loss of a key stronghold in a recent Pakistani army offensive.
U.S. officials said Wednesday it did not appear the soldiers were specifically targeted in the attack, and initial reports indicated the blast was caused by a roadside bomb.
Thursday, however, Pakistani police said the suicide bomber rammed his car into the U.S. soldiers' vehicle, raising questions about whether the attacker had inside information on the location of the troops.
Police official Naeem Khan said Pakistani authorities are investigating whether the bomber knew the soldiers, who were training Pakistani forces to fight the Taliban and al-Qaida, would be passing through Shahi Koto town where the attack occurred and which vehicle to target out of the 5-car convoy.
Stets and the other soldiers killed Wednesday were driving to attend the inauguration of a girl's school, but a school that was damaged in the blast was not the one where the convoy was heading.
Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the incident was still under review, said at least one of the three American soldiers was a member of a unit designed to help local authorities publicize positive news -- in this case, apparently, the opening of a girls school, which the embassy said had been renovated with U.S. humanitarian assistance.
Two local journalists in the convoy were under the impression that the soldiers, who were in civilian clothes, were American journalists because of comments from a Pakistani soldier suggesting that was the case.
Express TV reporter Amjad Ali Shah said as the convoy was about to leave from a paramilitary base, a Pakistani soldier entered the room and said to an officer, "Sir, the foreign journalists have arrived," in an apparent reference to the American contingent.
STETS, MARK A
Posted: 6 February 2010 Updated: 23 May 2010 Updated: 7 June 2010 Updated: 20 June 2010 Updated: 6 July 2010
Photos By Eileen Horan, July 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, Father's Day, June 2010
Photo Courtesy of Eileen Horan, June 2010
Photo Courtesy of Holly, May 2010