WEST VALLEY CITY - A one-time football star and student president of Granger High School in West Valley City was killed Saturday in Afghanistan when insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked his unit.
    Scott Lundell's death comes at a time when, although often overshadowed by the Iraq conflict, the war in Afghanistan has grown increasingly deadly for U.S. troops and their allies. Coalition fatality rates in Afghanistan now rival and sometimes surpass those in Iraq, according to U.S. and NATO reports.
    Fellow National Guard members described Lundell as a "gung-ho soldier." He was a recently commissioned officer who joined up with the Utah-based I-Corps Artillery just in time to deploy to Afghanistan and who was "very upbeat" about his mission there - training Afghan soldiers.
    Neighbors in West Valley City, where Lundell lived with his wife and four children, said the 35-year-old soldier was tall and handsome, but a rare sight in the neighborhood over the past few years, as Army training and his deployment kept him away from home.
    Lundell's death was part of a wave of violence Saturday in southern Afghanistan, where insurgents mounted at least four separate attacks, according to NATO, which leads the operation.
    Such heavy fighting appears to have become more frequent in the months since the I-Corps arrival in Iraq, late this summer. Fatality rates among coalition troops in Afghanistan have surpassed those in Iraq in three of the past four months, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Defense and NATO.
    Michael Keane, author of The Dictionary of Modern Strategy and Tactics and a lecturer at the University of Southern California, said he believes increased attacks in Afghanistan come as the result of a "technology transfer" of weapons and tactics from Iraq to Afghanistan.
    And Keane said that without a more aggressive strategy in Afghanistan - both in terms of increased troops strength and a viable economic plan for the war-torn nation - NATO forces can expect to see "a more resistant and stronger Taliban in Afghanistan."
    Utah National Guard Brig. Gen. Patrick Wilson raised some eyebrows last month, when, in speaking to soldiers in the 222nd Field Artillery, he described the I-Corps mission as potentially "more dangerous" than the mission the 222nd recently had completed in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold in western Iraq where more than 230 U.S. service members have been killed.
    But having returned from visiting I-Corps troops, including about 100 Utahns, in Afghanistan earlier this month - and with tragic anecdotal evidence at hand Tuesday - Wilson stood by his earlier analysis.
    "They are [deployed] into many remote areas of the country of Afghanistan," Wilson said. "They are out working in two- and three- and four-man teams with the Afghan army."
    And thus, Wilson said, the I-Corps mission remains "every bit or more dangerous than what we had in the Triple Deuce environment."
    Lundell reportedly was with a small contingent of U.S. soldiers, advisers to a group of dozens of Afghan counterparts in the Uruzgan Province, when his unit came under fire. More specific details of the attack were not immediately available, but NATO's International Security Assistance Force reported that 50 insurgents were killed in return fire.
    Wilson met with Lundell's wife, Jeanine, on Tuesday evening along with other Utah National Guard officials.
    Jeanine Lundell declined to speak publicly following the announcement of her husband's death, though members of her church said she shared the tragic news with them on Sunday.
    "She's a very, very spiritually strong person," said Carmen Dodson, who lives on the Lundell's cul-de-sac, where more than a dozen U.S. flags were posted Tuesday evening.
    Scott Lundell is the third Utahn to die in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion of that nation and overthrow of its Taliban-led government, following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
    At least 186 coalition troops have been killed in Afghanistan this year, the most since the invasion.
    Faced with evidence of a growing insurgency and regrouped Taliban resistance, and with his own nation's troops stretched thin across the globe, President Bush this week called upon fellow NATO nations to send more troops to Afghanistan. About 32,000 NATO troops, including some 12,000 from the United States, are currently based in Afghanistan.