Missouri National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Robert Wayne Pharris, 48, Seymour, died Jan. 5 of wounds suffered at Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device.
Pharris served as an agriculture specialist with Agri-Business Development Team IV. He was working as a liaison to 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry at the time of the attack.
Also killed in the attack was Spc. Christian J. Romig, 24, of Kenner, La. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division of Fort Campbell, Ky.
"Sgt. 1st Class Pharris was the most energetic and enthusiastic soldier I have ever met, and in many ways was the perfect soldier," said ADT commander Col. Michael D. Fortune. "Among his many great qualities, he was passionate about his work, tenacious and always ready to take on a new challenge. He was an infantryman to the core, but at the same time he truly cared for and looked after his fellow soldiers."
Fortune described Pharris as a soldier who was dedicated to his mission of helping the Afghan people toward a brighter future.
"Even as the Missouri National Guard's agri-business development teams have led the way in helping the Afghan people become self-sustaining, as highly-trained soldiers and airmen they also have courageously faced the ever-present danger there," said Gov. Jay Nixon. "Sgt. 1st Class Pharris was part of this vital mission, and we greatly mourn the loss of this brave citizen-soldier."
Pharris was featured in an article in November 2010 with his son, a Marine Corps corporal, who was also serving in Afghanistan. In the article, Pharris said, "I came to Afghanistan to make a tangible difference. Hopefully, 20 years from now, someone will remember an American who was here and be thankful their life is better."
The November article can be found at www.moguard.com/Pharrisreunion.php.
ADT IV has been mobilized since June 2010, with a mission to train and empower local agriculture extension agents; help provide outreach programs and communicate with the villages; and establish processes, procedures and controls to ensure gains in agricultural productivity. Pharris served as a small ruminants (sheep and goat) expert on the team.
Pharris first enlisted in the Army in 1981 and later the National Guard. Primarily serving as an infantryman, he has also served as a drill sergeant and recruiter. After leaving military service in 1997, he rejoined the Missouri Army National Guard in 2008 after he learned that an infantry unit was being formed.
Pharris deployed as a staff sergeant and was posthumously promoted to sergeant first class.
Pharris is the Missouri National Guard's 13th casualty in Overseas Contingency Operations since Sept. 11, 2001. He is the first loss from the Missouri National Guard's Agri-Business Development Team program, which has been active since 2007.
Funeral arrangements are pending.