“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Specialist Henry ‘Mitch’ Mayfield’s family, friends and loved ones,” said Col. William Garber, Commander of the Air Traffic Services Command and 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group. “Specialist Mayfield was a dynamic soldier who inspired those he served with to excel both on and off duty. The 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group will miss his leadership and camaraderie.”
Mayfield enlisted in the Army in August 2017 and worked as an air traffic services mechanic, the Pentagon said. His mother, Carmoneta, told WMAQ-TV she last spoke with her son over the New Year’s holiday.
“We discussed him not having to go to Somalia and he told me everything was good and safe at his base,” she told the news outlet. “He told me everything would be okay. Those were his last words to me.”
Mayfield was killed, along with two Department of Defense contractors, in the al-Shabab attack that included mortars and small-arms fire. Two other contractors were also wounded and six contractor-operated civilian aircraft suffered damage.
The incursion occurred roughly 150 miles from the Kenya-Somalia border. The compound is used to train African service members and to protect U.S. interests in the area.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack. The Al-Qaeda-linked group is based in Somalia and has launched a number of attacks within Kenya, though Sunday’s fighting was the first known attack against the U.S. forces in the country.
U.S. Africa Command said the attack did not appear to be in response to tensions between Washington and Iran, which have escalated following the killing of an Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani at the Baghdad International Airport early Friday.
Additional forces were deployed to the Kenyan base Monday to bolster security, Reuters reported.
Authorities said five suspects were arrested and were being interrogated. The last attack comes days after al-Shabab killed at least 79 people with a truck bomb in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu. U.S. airstrikes killed seven militant fighters in response.