3 Army Reserve soldiers killed in Jordan drone strike are identified

Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, Sgt. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, Sgt. Kennedy Ladon Sanders. (U.S. Army Reserve Command)

The Defense Department has released the identities of the three U.S. Army Reserve soldiers who were killed Sunday in an attack at a base in northeast Jordan, near the Syrian border.

The slain soldiers, all from Georgia, were Sgt. William Jerome Rivers, 46; Spc. Kennedy Ladon Sanders, 24; and Spc. Breonna Alexsondria Moffett, 23.

They are the first U.S. deaths in months of strikes by Iranian-backed militant groups since the Israel-Hamas war started Oct. 7.

More than 30 others were injured when an explosives-packed drone struck the base near a shelter where some troops were sleeping, according to two U.S. officials.

The three soldiers were assigned to the 718th Engineer Company, 926th Engineer Battalion, 926th Engineer Brigade at Fort Moore, Georgia. They were supporting Operation Inherent Resolve — targeted operations to defeat the Islamic State terror group, the Defense Department said.

Sanders’ father, Shawn Sanders, told NBC News that his daughter was a “happy-go-lucky individual” who was always smiling.

She enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2019 and was on her second deployment in Jordan, where her family had no fears for her safety.

“We’d pray for her safe return, but I was not concerned,” said Shawn Sanders, 51, a Marine veteran.

He said his daughter was a heavy equipment operator, which he said is not typically a dangerous occupation. He also did not believe Jordan was a hostile environment.

Kennedy Sanders would call her mother every day, sometimes twice, he said, and never indicated there was anything to be concerned about.

“We weren’t expecting anything like that,” he said.

But around 11 a.m. local time Sunday, two uniformed Army officers rang his doorbell in Waycross, Georgia, to deliver the news.

“That was my baby,” Shawn Sanders said. "She had a bright future in front of her."

Officials said Kennedy Sanders completed an eight-month rotation to Djibouti in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2021. Her father said she was deployed to Jordan in early fall of 2023.

Her awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device.

“It hurts that my daughter’s gone. It hurts. But to know that she made the ultimate sacrifice and it was for our country, I’m very proud,” her father said.

In a statement, Moffett's parents, Francine and Bernard Moffett, said their daughter was a generous and "very loving" person.

"She loved life. She was an amazing big sister, an amazing daughter, and she loved everybody," they said in the statement. "A very people person.”

Moffett, who is from Savannah, enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2019. Her awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

Rivers, of Carrollton, enlisted in the Army Reserve in 2011 and completed a nine-month rotation to Iraq in 2018.

Rivers' awards and decorations include the Army Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon, two Army Reserve Component Overseas Training Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal with “M” Device, and the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal with Campaign Star.

The attack occurred at the logistics support base at Tower 22 of the Jordanian Defense Network. About 350 U.S. Army and Air Force personnel are deployed at the base, which provides support including “to the coalition for the lasting defeat of ISIS,” Central Command said.

It was the third drone attack on the outpost in roughly the last six months, according to two Pentagon officials. The first two — both in the second half of last year — were unsuccessful and did not cause any casualties.

Two of the theories for how this drone evaded the base air defenses are that it flew in as a U.S. drone was also coming in to the base and the defense systems did not recognize the attack drone as a threat.

The other is that it came in at a very low altitude, the officials said.

The Pentagon officials said they have not yet determined exactly what caused the breach.

The officials said early reports indicate that the alarm that should have warned troops of an incoming threat did not sound.

The incident is under investigation.

President Joe Biden said Sunday that the U.S. “shall respond” to the attack, which he said came from “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq.”

He said the three service members “were patriots in the highest sense.”

Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels, chief of Army Reserve and commanding general of the U.S. Army Reserve Command, said their deaths “left an indelible mark” on the Army Reserve.

“On behalf of the Army Reserve, I share in the sorrow felt by their friends, family, and loved ones," Daniels said. "Their service and sacrifice will not be forgotten, and we are committed to supporting those left behind in the wake of this tragedy."

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com