The Pentagon has identified a U.S. Army soldier killed in the African country of Djibouti on Thursday.
Pfc. Walter Lewark, 26, from Mountainair, New Mexico was killed in a non-combat related incident. Lewark was deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa.
Lewark was a member of Company A, 1st Battalion, 200th Infantry Regiment, 93d Troop Command, of the New Mexico Army National Guard.
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed and the incident is under investigation at this time.
According to the Navy, Camp Lemonnier is the primary base of operations Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and houses around 4,000 U.S. and allied military and civilian personnel.
The latest casualty comes amid the Department of Defense’s efforts to realign the military units deployed within the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) mission area.
On Wednesday, the DoD announced it would be assigning new units to Africa, to relieve conventional units that have taken up efforts to train African partner governments.
“The Secretary of Defense has been conducting a comprehensive review of DoD forces, programs and activities within each Combatant Command to ensure alignment with the National Defense Strategy’s priorities,” Chief Pentagon Spokesperson Alyssa Farah said in a statement Wednesday. “U.S. Africa Command was the first to present their findings and recommendations. As part of this review and in order to better compete with China and Russia in Africa, the Secretary is directing the deployment of elements of the Army’s 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) to the continent to conduct train, advise, and assist missions in spotlight African countries.”
“This is the first of many decisions regarding AFRICOM’s mission,” Farah continued.
The deployment of the SFAB is meant to help relieve Army forces currently deployed to the continent by replacing elements of the 101st Airborne Division so the unit can return to its home base of Ft. Campbell, KY.
The SFAB is specifically equipped to train, advise and assist missions and as a whole, the SFAB’s presence is meant to help reduce the demand for brigade combat teams that have taken on security force assistance operations since previously deploying to the continent.
“This realignment and rightsizing of mission requirements demonstrates the Department’s commitment to implementing the National Defense Strategy and our continuing commitment to our African partners,” Farah said.
U.S. forces in Africa have helped assist in fighting against terror groups, including regional affiliates of Al Qaeda and ISIS. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also recently announced Russia and China have been making moves to expand their presence in Africa.