BALTIMORE — A Maryland Army National Guard major was one of two military advisers killed in a heavily guarded government building in Afghanistan, the U.S. military announced Monday.
Army Maj. Robert J. Marchanti II, 48, was killed Saturday in an attack at the Interior Ministry in Kabul, military officials said. He and Air Force Lt. Col. John D. Loftis were found dead in their office with gunshots to the back of the head. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the killings, calling them retaliation for the burning of Qurans at a U.S. base.
The gunman was still at large and authorities are actively searching for that person, Navy Capt. John Kirby, spokesman for the U.S.-led international military coalition in Afghanistan, said Monday. Almost immediately after the shootings, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, withdrew all coalition advisers from Afghan ministries. Allen is not yet ready to send them back, Kirby said.
The bodies of Marchanti and Loftis are being returned to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Monday. Loftis, 44, of Paducah, Ky., was assigned to the 866th Air Expeditionary Squadron in Kabul.
Marchanti joined the Army in 1984 and joined the Guard in 1986. He taught physical education at several Baltimore County schools over 18 years before working full-time as a technician with the Guard's construction and facilities office in Baltimore. In Afghanistan, Marchanti was assigned to the 29th Infantry Division Security Partnering Team II. Members of the team work as mentors and advisors helping to prepare Afghan security forces to secure the country.
In a message to guard members Monday, Maj. Gen. James A. Adkins, the commander of the Maryland National Guard, said it was impossible for most of them to understand the emotional turmoil Marchanti's family was experiencing. Marchanti was married with four children and a grandson.
"The loss of one of our own is always very difficult, and little can be said to ease the pain, but we will always remember Rob's dedication to our nation as we honor his service and sacrifice," Adkins said.