Utah soldier who cared for the wounded dies in Afghanistan

(Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command) Sgt. 1st Class. Elliott J. Robbins, 31, from Ogden, Utah, died in a noncombat incident in Afghanistan on Sunday, June 30.

Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins lived a soldier’s life.

He followed his father across two continents during his military career, then arrived in Utah and joined the Army, too.

That military life is going to be honored sooner than anyone wanted.

On Monday, the Army announced Robbins, 31, of Ogden, died a day earlier in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The news release did not say how he died, only that it was in “non-combat related.”

The death is under investigation, according to the Department of Defense.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The home of Freeman Robbins, father of Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31. On Monday, the Army announced Sgt. 1st Class Elliott J. Robbins, 31, died a day earlier in AfghanistanÕs Helmand Province. The news release did not say how he died, only that it was in Ònon-combat related.Ó

Robbins’ father, Freeman Robbins, said Monday he didn’t know how his son died. In a brief phone conversation, the elder Robbins, who is retired from the U.S. Army Reserve and who noted he served active duty, too, said two soldiers arrived overnight to inform him of his son’s death.

“I didn’t get any specifics," Freeman Robbins said.

He and other family members were planning to leave Monday for Dover Air Force Base in Delaware for the return of Elliot Robbins’ remains.

Robbins was a medic assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), based in Fort Carson, Colo.

“A skilled soldier with three combat deployments, Robbins will always be remembered,” Col. Lawrence G. Ferguson, 10th Group commander, said in a statement. “We mourn the tragic passing of Sgt. 1st Class Elliott Robbins. The 10th Special Forces Group has paid a heavy toll in recent days. While we mourn, we will support Sgt. 1st Class Robbins’ family and honor his service.”

On June 25, two other members of the 10th Group — Master Sgt. Micheal B. Riley, from Heilbronn, Germany, and Sgt. James G. Johnston, from Trumansburg, N.Y., were shot to death.

Robbins was born Aug. 18, 1987, in San Diego, according to the Army. He joined the service in June 2006 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as an infantryman.

Robbins deployed to Iraq with the 101st Airborne in 2007, and twice to Afghanistan in support of Special Operations in 2017 and 2019 with the 10th Special Forces Group. He received numerous awards for his service.

The family’s pastor, the Rev. Erik Richtsteig, of St. James the Just Catholic Church in Ogden, said Elliot Robbins leaves behind a wife and young son in Colorado.

“His deployment [would have] ended in about a month," Richtsteig said, “and he was looking forward to coming home to be with his son.”

Freeman Robbins’ career in the military and as a civilian employee in the defense sector had required moves through the years, Richtsteig said, including a stop in Germany. Robbins relocated his family to Utah years ago to take a job at Hill Air Force Base, Richtsteig said, and he still works there as a civilian.

When he was on leave, Elliott Robbins discussed with his family how proud he was of the U.S. and Afghan troops he treated in combat, Richtsteig said. The family was proud of him, too.

“To care for the wounded in combat is one of the highest forms of courage,” the priest said.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statement Monday expressing his condolences to the Robbins family. He also ordered U.S. and Utah flags in the state lowered to half-staff the day of Robbins funeral. The funeral has not yet been scheduled.

With Americans poised to celebrate Independence Day this week, Utah House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, said the fallen soldier’s “sacrifice and service will not be forgotten and will be felt continually by Utahns as we remember the freedoms we enjoy.”

Robbins’ awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal with Combat Device and one Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Achievement Medal with one Silver and two Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Valorous Unit Award, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Four Knot Device, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon with Numeral 2, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral 2, NATO Medal, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Infantryman Badge, Military Freefall Parachutist Badge, and Parachutist Badge.