US Mission Afghanistan: Public Diplomacy Officer for Kandahar, Kelly Hunt Wounded in Zabul

On April 8, reported that two casualties from the April 6, 2012 attack in Zabul, Afghanistan came from East Tennessee. The news site sourcing family members confirmed the identities of  Army Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward of Oak Ridge who was killed during the attack  and Kelly Hunt, a 33-year-old public diplomacy officer assigned in Kandahar for the State Department, who was wounded in the same incident. (see photos via

On April 9, noting that details of the attack are still vague, reported  that Ms. Hunt who worked previously as a News Sentinel staffer headed into “surgery again” citing information from family members. She reportedly is in a medically induced coma at a military hospital in Germany.  This is probably the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

According to her LinkedIn Account, Ms. Hunt joined the State Department last year and has been the public diplomacy officer in Kandahar since July 2012.

“As a public diplomacy officer for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, I serve as the RC-South Ambassador’s PD officer and the civilian PD liason for military command. Help design key leader engagements for the Senior Civilian Representative – the Ambassador for RC-S; report daily to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul during crisis communication events; write talking points, speeches and readouts for KLE interactions, roundtables with Afghan journalists and interviews with international media; highlight and plan media events to disseminate Afghan news to the international community; serve as the military’s counterpart for a variety of topics; and act as a PD grants officer representative for various RC-S PD grants, proposing grants that will have an enduring and stabilizing impact on the region for years to come while ensuring the grantees stay on budget and on task.”

News reports so far indicate that four other State Department staffers, including Ms. Hunt, were injured in the bombing, one critically.

We should note that Ms. Smedinghoff who was killed in the same attack was a public diplomacy officer working as the Assistant Press Attache at U.S. Embassy Kabul since last year. It appears right now that there were five State Department personnel delivering textbooks to a school in Qalat?

We have more questions than answers right now.  If anyone care to help answer some of those questions, please contact me here.

DOD has also released today the names of the troops who perished in Zabul for “wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit in Zabul, Afghanistan with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.”  The DOD release says that  they were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. Those killed were:  Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward, 24, of Oak Ridge, Tenn., Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa, 25, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and Spc. Deflin M. Santos Jr., 24, of San Jose, Calif.


Updated:  Rewritten to provide only links to restricted knoxnews material.


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6 responses

  1. As a colleague of Ms. Hunt I would respectfully request you take down this posting, and the needless speculation included in the comment section. None of you know what you’re talking about, nor have a need to know, nor are contributing in any meaningful fashion to the issue at hand. Shame on you all.

    • Hey Z,

      If she worked for DOS, she’s also a colleague of mine. If you disagree with the speculation, then perhaps you can pony up some facts and stop it. Not exactly sure why we should feel shamed.

  2. Sounds to me like the embassy asst press officer, and possibly others, were sent down to help the southern regional PD officer during what would have been planned as a fairly major photo op ceremony publicizing the donation of local language books to a priority school. You can deliver books without a full convoy, if you don’t send USG people along to mark the event.

    Somebody put a car bomb/IED at a well-traveled spot and got lucky when it seems both the USG and Afghan convoys passed at the same time, possibly moving in opposite directions. We will not know the full extent and identity of the US casualties until the other three wounded USG get far enough through the necessary treatment and evacuation process for the family notifications and approvals to be in place. The only reason we know about Hunt is that the TN press apparently was covering the faster TN KIA (military) arrival at Dover and got wind of the other TN WIA (Hunt) involved in the same incident.
    The wounded are likely in Germany, if they needed to be stabilized before evac to US. The critically wounded civilian may be the focus of an intense effort to save his/her life and all concerned will be preoccupied with keeping the press off the families’ backs.

    Hunt appears to be locally senior to the young woman killed. It would not surprise me to learn that the other wounded include a variety of ranks. They may have all been together in the vehicle closest to the explosion. There were deaths in the Afghan convoy, too. The pictures suggest the Americans were moving in MRAPs, which is probably why some of them are still alive.

    Going in harm’s way.