Sgt. 1st Class Nicholas Sheperty died last Wednesday after suffering critical injuries during airborne operations training. Local emergency services personnel declared the 36-year-old Sheperty dead at the scene, and a command investigation into the cause of the incident is underway.

“On behalf of the men and women of the West Virginia National Guard, I extend my deepest condolences to Nick’s family, friends and those who served with him. The loss of such an exceptional soldier and true West Virginia hero will be felt throughout our entire organization,” said Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, the adjutant general of the West Virginia National Guard.

Sheperty served as a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets. A Senior Weapons Sergeant with the 2nd Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group (Airborne) out of Kingwood, West Virginia, Sheperty served on multiple combat deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, earning both a Bronze Star and Purple Heart at different points in his tours. Surprisingly however, some of these deployments were not wearing a Green Beret, but rather as a member of a different elite special operations unit: Marine Corps Special Operations Command, or MARSOC.

Sheperty enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2002, earning his place in the Corp’s newly formed special operations unit before leaving the service and finding his way to the West Virginia National Guard. For most, earning a place within a special operations unit is, at best, a once in a lifetime situation. Sheperty, however, was not most.

“Nick didn’t have to be doing what he was doing yesterday,” General Hoyer said on Thursday. “He’d already done his duty and served his time in uniform.”

According to Hoyer, Sheperty lived in Baltimore, Maryland but chose to serve with the West Virginia Guard because of its “reputation for having some of the best Special Forces soldiers in the United States military.”

Few details have been released regarding the circumstances of Sheperty’s death, though National Guard statements have indicated that it did not appear to have been caused by an equipment malfunction.

“It’s my hope that people understand, each and every day, there are men and women in the armed forces who are conducting both operations and training in support of the defense of our nation in a dangerous environment,” Hoyer wrote in a statement.