Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alaska. Show all posts

Monday, June 14, 2021

Alaska-based soldier suicides appear to be nearly four times the general U.S. rate

USA TODAY
Tom Vanden Brook
Jun. 11, 2021

WASHINGTON – Six soldiers stationed in Alaska have died by apparent suicide in the first five months of the year, an alarming number of deaths after the Army poured more than $200 million into the state to combat the mental health crisis it identified in 2019, according to Army figures released to USA TODAY.

The 2021 suicide toll among the roughly 11,500 soldiers stationed there already has nearly matched last year when seven soldiers died by suicide while stationed with U.S. Army Alaska, whose principal posts are Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.

While suicide rates among troops overall are comparable to the civilian population, the rate within the relatively small population of Alaska-based soldiers appears to be nearly four times the general U.S. rate.
read more here

Why? Why after all these years are the numbers still going up? Because what they are doing is not working, yet they keep doing the same things that already failed. The question is...why?

February 7, 2021, Army Times reported this, "After Army Alaska’s alleged suicides, one battalion gets ‘sensing sessions’"
A command team from the Hawaii-based 25th Combat Aviation Brigade visited one of their battalions at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, in January to hold sensing sessions in which troops discussed their opinions on mental health, loss and grief.

The trip came after two soldiers from 1st Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment, died by suicide in late December and January, and a third soldier attempted suicide in that same time period, according to two people and an email from a unit official obtained by Army Times that describes the three incidents.
Because they have not changed what they are doing anywhere! It shows.
Military Deaths by Suicide Jumped 25% at End of 2020
Military.com
By Stephen Losey
5 Apr 2021

The number of deaths by suicide among military service members increased alarmingly in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the Defense Department's latest quarterly report.

The military recorded 156 deaths by suicide among all services, including active-duty, National Guard and Reserve troops, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31 last year. That is a 25% increase from the 125 such deaths that occurred in the last quarter of calendar year 2019.
read more here

Exactly when will the Joint Chiefs be forced to change what they are doing so that they can actually change the outcome?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Ret. Lt. Col. John Andersen decided to #BreakTheSilence so others would seek help to heal

'Eating at me from the inside out': After suffering silently for 15 years, Alaska vet encourages others to seek help for mental health challenges


KTUU News
By Beth Verge
Dec 31, 2019
Ret. Lt. Col. John Andersen, a 21-year veteran of the military who served in various capacities, including as an Air Force pilot based at Eielson Air Force Base and with the Pennsylvania Air National Guard, is one of them.
ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - If you are a veteran in crisis, or are concerned about one, you can connect with the veterans crisis line by dialing (800) 273-8255. You can also text the number 838255 or chat online by clicking here.

The great state of Alaska boasts the highest percentage of veterans in the entire United States. About one of every three people in the Last Frontier is either military or a dependent, according to the Alaska Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We have a high amount of veterans in our state," said Sen. Dan Sullivan, (R) Alaska, "which is great, but we also have one of the highest rates of suicide. We need to recognize these are wounds of war, just like being shot is.

"It's a broader issue," the U.S. Marine Corps Reservist added. "It's not necessarily resources, but it's the stigma."

As such, with that grand force of servicemen and women spread across the state comes an often hidden ailment faced by tens of thousands of people each and every day: post-combat mental health challenges.
read it here

Monday, June 10, 2019

Former National Guardsman from Florida Died in Alaska

Alaska Army National Guard soldier dies in Copper River


San Francisco Chronicle
June 10, 2019

Before joining the Alaska Army National Guard, Hepler was in the Florida Army National Guard from 2001 to 2004.


GLENNALLEN, Alaska (AP) — A 35-year-old Alaska Army National Guard soldier from Fort Greely died when he fell into the Copper River while dipnetting for salmon.

Alaska State Troopers say the body of Sgt. 1st Class Russell Hepler was recovered.

Alaska Army National Guard officials say Hepler was a full-time soldier in the 49th Missile Defense Battalion's military police company at Fort Greely.
read more here


Monday, March 25, 2019

Suicides at Fort Wainwright cause investigation

Army launches Fort Wainwright suicide inquiry


Daily News Miner
By Sam Friedman
Mar 22, 2019
"If these deaths are officially ruled as suicides, Congressman Young hopes the U.S. Army can help identify a path forward to improve the mental health and overall well-being of active duty military at Fort Wainwright," Brown said.
FAIRBANKS—A team of medical experts will be sent to Fort Wainwright to study suicide in response to a perception that there has been a recent spike in suicides at the Army post.
Cars drive in and out of Fort Wainwright's main gate off of Airport Way on Thursday, January 15, 2015. Daily News-Miner photo


The team is coming at the request Rep. Don Young and U.S. Army Alaska commander Maj. Gen. Mark O'Neil. Young wrote a letter on the subject last week to U.S. Army Medical Command.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton said he believes this is the first time this type of investigation is being conducted in Alaska. He said the timing of the investigation has not yet been announced but that soldiers at Fort Wainwright have begun preparing for it.

The exact number of recent suicides at Fort Wainwright is fluid because several deaths remain under investigation.

Since May 2018 two deaths of Fort Wainwright soldiers have been determined to be suicides, Crighton said. There were four other deaths of Fort Wainwright soldiers in the same time period. The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is investigating those deaths.

Two confirmed suicides in this time period is not unusual among Alaskans and Army soldiers — both populations have high rates of suicide compared with national averages, Crighton said. Even this number of suicides is not acceptable, he said.
read more here

Come out of the dark and fight to #TakeBackYourLife #BreakTheSilence and ask for help. If someone is a jerk about it, then call them out for being an idiot. If they do not know what PTSD is by now...they never will. 

We figured it out in the 70's when Vietnam veterans came home and fought for all the research other generations came home with.

Monday, March 11, 2019

11 year oldest Military Working Dog retired

JBER’s oldest military working dog retires after 8-year career


By: Madeline McGee, Anchorage Daily News via the AP
March 10, 2019

JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska — After nearly eight years of military service, the oldest military working dog at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson will, for the first time, become somebody’s pet.
Kimba, a military working dog, sits with her new owner, Capt. Luke Restad, at her retirement ceremony March 1 at Joint Base Elemendorf-Richardson, Alaska. (Madeline McGee/Anchorage Daily News via AP)

Military Working Dog Kimba, an 11-year-old Belgian Malinois serving with JBER’s 673rd Security Forces Squadron, part of the Air Force’s 673rd Air Base Wing, retired Friday in a ceremony attended by four of her canine comrades. Her career had included everything from foot patrols of the base to drug detection to demonstration patrols.

In her eight year career at JBER, Kimba has been assigned to seven different handlers and hit on 32 narcotics finds, officials said. Her most recent handler, Staff Sgt. Christopher Bennett, called her "the best friend" he's had since he's been at serving at JBER.

Kimba completed her training in 2011 at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, squadron officials said. Out of about 2,500 tested for military service every year, about 750 are selected for rigorous training. An additional quarter drop out before completing the training.
read more here

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Deaths of two soldiers under investigation

Two S. Korea-based soldiers found dead — one in barracks and another while on leave in Nebraska


STARS AND STRIPES
By KIM GAMEL
Published: February 12, 2019

SEOUL, South Korea — The Army was investigating the deaths of two South Korea-based soldiers, including one found unresponsive in his barracks and the other while on leave in Nebraska. Both joined the service less than a year ago.
Claytun Cepeda, 19, was one of two South Korea-based Army privates found dead in separate incidents since last week. COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY
Pvt. Claytun N. Cepeda, a 19-year-old Guam native, was pronounced dead Sunday after he was found in his room at Camp Humphreys, the Army said. It added that the circumstances surrounding his death were under investigation.

Cepeda, a water purification specialist, joined the Army in June 2018 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was assigned to A Company, 602nd Aviation Support Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, according to a press release.
Separately, the Army said a soldier stationed at Camp Henry, South Korea, was found dead Feb. 5 while on leave in Valley, Neb. The cause was under investigation. Pvt. Aaron Mitchell, 21, was a mortuary affairs specialist assigned to the 498th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, U.S. Army Materiel Support Command Korea, 19th Expeditionary Sustainment Command.
read more here

Also, From Stars and Stripes

Army helicopter repairman dies of injuries sustained at on-base home in Alaska

An Army helicopter repairman died Monday of injuries he sustained a week earlier at his home at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the Army said.
Sgt. Brian Peter Sawyer, 33, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Wainwright, died at Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., where he had been transferred because of the severity of his injuries, the Army said in a statement Tuesday.
He was injured at his on-base residence on Feb. 3 and initially treated at Bassett Army Community Hospital on Fort Wainwright, the statement said. 
read more here

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Airman found dead at Eielson Air Force Base

Airman found dead in Alaska


By STARS AND STRIPES
Published: February 6, 2019

An airman was found dead in a parking lot in North Pole, Alaska, Eielson Air Force Base officials said Tuesday.

Then-Airman 1st Class Elijah Evans in a photo from social media. Evans, 23, a senior airman from Waldorf, Md., stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, was found dead on Monday in North Pole, Alaska. His death is under investigation.COURTESY OF ELIJAH EVANS/FACEBOOK VIA U.S. AIR FORCE

Senior Airman Elijah Evans, 23, was found dead on Monday, according to an Air Force statement, though where he was found is unclear. The Air Force said it was a restaurant parking lot, while North Pole police quoted by KTVF News of Fairbanks said he was found at the Gorilla Fireworks parking lot.
Evans was assigned to the 354th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Eielson, and hailed from Waldorf, Md. He joined the Air Force on May 10, 2016, according to the statement.
read more here

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Fort Wainwright soldier found dead after welfare check

Army dog handler found dead in Alaska home during welfare check


STARS AND STRIPES
By WYATT OLSON
Published: January 4, 2019

A 25-year-old Army dog handler was found dead Wednesday at his home in North Pole, Alaska, the Army said.
A Fort Wainwright sign is shown in this undated photo. COURTESY OF THE U.S. ARMY

Alaska law enforcement officers discovered the body of Sgt. Jorden Thomas Williams during a welfare check that had been requested by family members living outside the state, the Army said Friday in a statement.

North Pole is located between Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright, where Williams was stationed. The town is about 13 miles southeast of the central city of Fairbanks.
read more here

Friday, November 2, 2018

Army investigating 2 soldiers found dead in Alaska

Two Alaska soldiers found dead in their homes in separate incidents


STARS AND STRIPES
By WYATT OLSON
Published: November 1, 2018

The Army is investigating separate deaths of two Alaska soldiers found in their living quarters late last month.
Spc. Mason James Guckavan, 21, died of a gunshot wound while in his barracks Oct. 26 at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, the Army said in a statement Thursday.

On Oct. 25, the body of Sgt. Andrew James Washington, 28, was discovered by personnel with the military and Anchorage Police Department during a welfare check after he failed to report to his place of duty, the Army said.
read more here

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Motorcycle crash claimed life of soldier who survived Afghanistan and Iraq

Motorcyclist killed in Saturday crash was JBER soldier
KTVA News
By Chris Klint
October 8th 2018

The man killed last weekend in a Gambell Street motorcycle crash was an Army soldier, military officials confirmed Monday.
JBER soldier Staff Sgt. James Alcorn, 35, died in an Oct. 6, 2018 motorcycle crash on Gambell Street in Anchorage, according to Anchorage police. (Credit: From U.S. Army Alaska)
Staff Sgt. James Alcorn, 35, was a field artilleryman assigned to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson's 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division according to U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell.

Alcorn, who joined the Army in 2006, served at Fort Benning, Fort Knox and Fort Bragg in the southern U.S. before being assigned to JBER in July 2016. He had served two combat tours in Afghanistan, as well as one in Iraq.
read more here

Saturday, May 19, 2018

One week after discharge, veteran accused of attempted murder?

Charges: Army veteran shot 2 in downtown encounter
KTVA News
Thursday, May 17th 2018

Police say an Army veteran, accused of shooting and wounding two people in Anchorage Wednesday, claimed that he opened fire when one of them approached him with a hammer in an ongoing dispute.

Rusty Tuuaga, 34, was taken into custody on charges including attempted murder after the shooting, which left a man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said overnight that the incident appeared to be drug-related.

U.S. Army Alaska officials said Thursday that Tuuaga had left the Army last week on May 6, as a specialist with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s 725th Support Battalion.

A charging document in the case, written by Assistant District Attorney Arne Soldwedel, said the wounded man said Tuuaga’s first name “several times” when police reached the 600 block of East 5th Avenue shortly after 8:45 p.m. The victims were taken to separate Anchorage hospitals with torso wounds, with the man arriving in critical condition.

Surveillance video from the shooting showed the victims getting out of a Jeep Grand Cherokee, then approaching a sport-utility vehicle they had blocked in; one of them had “an item that may have been a hammer” in his hand.
read more here

Friday, May 11, 2018

Fort Rucker lost 2 members suspected murder-suicide

Guardsman kills wife, man, then himself, authorities say
FOX News
Dom Calicchio
May 11, 2018

A National Guard member entered a Florida hotel room last weekend and fatally shot his estranged wife and another man before turning the gun on himself, authorities said.
Mark and Amanda Stokes are seen in an image from Mark Stokes' Facebook page. (Facebook)
Police identified the gunman as Mark Stokes, 37, a major in the Army National Guard who was stationed at Fort Rucker in Enterprise, Ala.

His wife was identified as Amanda Stokes, 28, a sergeant in the Army National Guard, also at Fort Rucker.

The other man was identified as Kenneth Walker Krause, 30, formerly of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
read more here

Sunday, April 8, 2018

"It’s time to lighten your rucksack, friend."

Helping vets is soldier’s mission
Daily News Miner
Keith Kurber II
2 hrs ago
"It’s time to lighten your rucksack, friend. It’s time to get found."  
Keith Kurber II

FAIRBANKS — As a career soldier, everything I did for the military was based on a mission statement. It didn’t matter whether it were a peacetime training exercise or a wartime operation, the mission gave us the “who, what, where, when and why” of our task. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus Christ provided his mission statement and it reads like this: “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10, New American Standard Bible). Because I am a follower of Jesus, his mission becomes mine. Wherever I go, I am to seek out and save the lost.

The seeking part of the mission seems fairly straightforward; it means I am out and about, looking for those who need to be saved. The idea of saving is also an uncomplicated notion, as long as I don’t forget that what saves somebody is pointing them to Jesus. Personally, I can’t save anyone, but I can tell them all about Jesus, who can. I can tell people that he is the answer to their deepest needs, especially their aching fear of the unknown, their chronic lack of peace and their confusion. Who wouldn’t want that?

But sometimes lost people don’t want to be found. As a young man, I regularly resisted the advice of well-meaning Christians trying to “save” me by pointing me to Jesus. And being lost isn’t a great feeling either. No matter what you call it, being lost, confused, unsure, unclear, perplexed, disoriented or bewildered, it’s largely an unpleasant experience. When you understand that the original meaning of “being lost” also encompasses being destroyed, rendered useless or killed, it takes on a very weighty sense. The bottom line is this: Being lost is not a good place to be, especially eternally so.
read more here
Keith Kurber II is the senior pastor of Harvest, a church that he and his wife, Nola, also an ordained minister, founded in September 2010. They look forward to many years serving Fairbanks and the Tanana Valley together through Harvest. Keith retired after serving 30 years of Army active duty, reserve and National Guard service as a colonel of special forces. He is also a Drop Zone graduate, having attended in March of 2018. Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.

Monday, December 18, 2017

PTSD, Domestic Violence and Alaska?

Did Sarah Palin get her son help after the last time? If he went for help, and it did not work, then why didn't she use her celebrity image to scream about how our veterans are not getting the help they need? 

Aren't they fair questions considering that she was the Governor of Alaska, and as such, responsible for the National Guards.
During a January 2016 rally in support of President Trump, Sarah Palin suggested Track’s problems stemmed from post-traumatic stress disorder he developed after a military deployment in Iraq. 
“I can certainly relate with other families who feel these ramifications of some PTSD and some of the woundedness that our soldiers do return with,” the former governor said at the time.
That was almost two years ago.

Sarah Palin's oldest son, Track, arrested on domestic violence charges
Los Angeles Times
Matt Pearce
December 17, 2017
Track Palin is shown at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn., in September 2008. (Emmanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images)

Track Palin, the oldest son of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was arrested Saturday in Alaska on charges of domestic violence. It marks the second time he’s been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence in two years.

The charges seem to stem from an incident in his family’s hometown of Wasilla, though further details about what happened were not immediately available.

Palin, 28, was arraigned Sunday morning on three counts: felony burglary, misdemeanor reckless assault and misdemeanor criminal mischief for causing up to $500 in property damage, according to online court records. Each of the charges was related to domestic violence.

read more here

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Army Captain Chaplain Received Soldier's Medal

‘Warrior’ chaplain honored for taking down machete-wielding suicidal soldier 
Ledger Enquirer 
Chuck Williams 
March 14, 2017
“Here is where the truth comes in,” Christensen said. “Nothing but fear, and I believe the work of of the Holy Spirit, moved me into a position where I could physically control the soldier.”
The black cross patch on the right side of Capt. Matthew C. Christensen’s U.S. Army uniform tells a story.

It’s where Army meets religion.

Two years ago, during his previous assignment in Alaska, the chaplain was forced into a situation where he had to act quickly with the fight-or-die instincts of a soldier. It was another place where Army meets religion.

Christensen, a 43-year-old Montana native, defused a potential deadly situation by unarming a machete-wielding soldier during a suicide attempt that was on the verge of turning into multiple homicides. Tuesday morning at Fort Benning, Christensen, who served as a Lutheran pastor before becoming an active duty chaplain seven years ago, was awarded the Soldier’s Medal, the Army’s highest honor for valor in a non-combat situation.
read more here

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Rest of the Story on Veteran Suicides

As with most things, numbers are really important but data is king. If the researchers do not tell where numbers came from, it is up to the reviewer to put the pieces together. So far, I'm totally confused.

As the number of veterans living in the US has gone down since 1999, and "efforts" have increased to the point where "awareness" has become a mega money maker, the number of reported suicides should have gone down after all these years. So why are they virtually the same? 

This is such a serious issue and so far I've seen little to do with seeking answers as much as folks run around seeking publicity, including politicians.

Department Veterans Affairs 2016 Suicide Report Start with these charts from the report.
2013 Report from Alaska
Veteran Suicides Twice as High as Civilian Rates
by Jeff Hargarten, Forrest Burnson, Bonnie Campo and Chase Cook | News21
News21 filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the raw data collected by the VA to this point, but it was denied because the “disclosure of raw research data poses a serious threat to the scientific process” and because of fears the information would be misinterpreted without peer review.
Most states provided veteran suicide information gleaned from death certificates. VA research, Kemp said, shows death certificates are about 90 percent accurate and “good enough” to help understand veteran suicides.

Veterans are over-represented among suicides compared to the general population, a trend seen in most states between 2005 and 2011.

For example, in Alaska, veterans were about 14 percent of the population, but represented about 21 percent of all suicides in 2010. The same year in Washington, Census data showed veterans were about 11 percent of the population, but state vital statistics showed they represented about 23 percent of suicides.

Florida
Military, veteran suicides account for nearly one in every four in Florida ... but the numbers don't explain why
Jacksonville Times Union
By Clifford Davis
Posted April 26, 2014
STATE NUMBERS STAGGERING

In Florida, the numbers are staggering.

Although veterans make up only 8 percent of the state’s population, they accounted for more than 25 percent of its suicides, according to the report.

Between 1999 and 2011, 31,885 suicides were reported in the state, according to the Florida Department of Health. That would mean more than 8,000 Florida veterans took their lives during those 13 years, according to the VA.

The numbers put Florida among states with the highest percentage of veteran suicides — but the numbers don't explain why.

Aside from Florida, most states report the veteran suicide rate is double the civilian population rate.
Oklahoma Veterans Commit Suicide at Twice the Rate of Civilians
By Chase Cook August 27, 2013
The veteran suicide rate in Oklahoma is down from a peak of about 46 in 2008, but researchers said that year had increased suicides due to the Great Recession. The rate dropped to about 39 in 2009 and has since climbed back up.

But the puzzling thing is that California does not tract veteran suicides.
Valley Assembly members introduce legislation to track veteran suicide rates
Fresno Bee
BY CHUEYEE YANG
January 20, 2017

Assemblymen Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno and Jim Patterson, R-Fresno introduced legislation Monday that would require the State of California to track how many veterans die by suicide.

AB 242 would require the California Department of Public Health to send veteran suicide rates and data from the electronic death registration system to the California Department of Veterans Affairs and the Legislature.

And in Illinois, they do not have the ability to list it on their death certificates.
Cullerton advanced Senate Bill 1693 to allow deceased veterans with military service to include their veteran status, branch of military and the period of time served in the military on their death certificate.
I went through the suicide report from the VA and they say they used the VA, DOD and CDC for reports, but with these two states not even tracking the numbers, how good is this report? The next question is, when do reporters actually start to ask for answers? When do folks running around the country actually get held accountable for "raising" awareness cash while the problem veterans face has gotten worse and when the hell do they start to raise awareness about the rest of the story?

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Iraq Veteran Killed in Police Standoff

Police kill Eagle River veteran after standoff near Denver
Chugiak Eagle River Star
Tuesday, March 7, 2017

A former Eagle River resident and Marine reservist was shot and killed by police after a standoff near Denver on Friday.
According to the Denver Post, police in Englewood, Colorado were called Friday afternoon for a report that an armed man was barricaded inside a home holding several hostages. During the incident, police fatally shot Michael Kocher, 32, in the torso.

Kocher was profiled in a 2009 story in the Alaska Star in which he talked about a recent seven-month tour of duty in Iraq. In the story, Lance Cpl. Kocher is described as having worked in intelligence and communications while deployed with Delta Company, 4th Anti-Terrorism Battalion. He shared fond memories of sharing candy with Iraqi children while deployed with the Marines.

“All the convoys would take candy to toss to the kids,” he said, according to the profile written by Jill Fankhauser. “I’d always read that there were groups that would send over shipments of soccer balls and things like that to handout.”

Kocher told the Star he enlisted the help of his mother in Eagle River, who got donations of soccer balls, candy and stuffed animals for her son to give away to kids in Iraq. He also mused about missing home while deployed near the Syrian border and said he wasn’t a supporter of the war but wanted to serve despite his misgivings.

“Even when the war started, I didn’t particularly agree with the war,” he told the Star. “I knew other people my age there, so I figured I ought to be with them.”

According to the article, the 6-foot-8 Kocher studied political science at the University of Alaska Anchorage, where he was the first person to win a designated on-campus parking spot, the university reported in 2009.
read more here

Friday, January 6, 2017

Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Suspect Alaska National Guardsman

Was he among the thousands kicked out of the military instead of getting help they needed to heal from combat?
He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard in December 2007, and served in Iraq from April 2010 to February 2011 as a combat engineer, according to the Alaska National Guard.

He was in the Army Reserves before joining the Alaska National Guard two years ago and got a general discharge Aug. 16, 2016, for unsatisfactory performance, a spokesman for the Alaska guard said. He was a private first class when he was discharged, the Guard said.

Santiago tried to get help and was clearly in distress.
In November, Santiago walked into the FBI's office in Anchorage and claimed his mind was being controlled by a U.S. intelligence agency and the CIA was forcing him to watch ISIS videos, federal law enforcement officials told NBC News.

Santiago was clear that he didn't intend to harm anyone, but the FBI was concerned by his erratic behavior and called police and he was taken to a mental health facility for an evaluation, FBI Special Agent in Charge George Piro of the Miami division told reporters Friday night.

Read more of the report from NBC News Fort Lauderdale Airport Shooting Suspect Esteban Santiago Said He Heard Voices: Officials
5 dead, 8 wounded in airport shooting; US veteran arrested
WESH 2 News
Suspect was on passenger at the airport
Updated: 6:09 PM EST Jan 6, 2017
An arriving airline passenger with a gun in his luggage opened fire in the baggage claim area at the Fort Lauderdale airport Friday, killing five people and wounding eight before throwing his weapon down and lying spread-eagle on the ground, authorities and witnesses said.

The gunman — identified by authorities as 26-year-old Esteban Santiago, of Anchorage, Alaska, an Army National Guard veteran who served in Iraq — was immediately taken into custody. His brother said he had been receiving psychological treatment recently.

The attack sent panicked passengers running out of the terminal and onto the tarmac, baggage in hand, and forced the shutdown of the entire airport.

Authorities said the motive was under investigation.
read more here

Sunday, September 4, 2016

82nd Airborne Soldiers Climbed Denali Remembering Friends Lost and Hope Found

Soldier climbs Denali for suicide awareness, proposes to girlfriend
DVIDS
DENALI, AK, UNITED STATES
Story by John Budnik
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Alaska District
09.02.2016
While visibly humble, Austria explained his personal encounters with suicide. Both his best friend and a fellow Soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division committed suicide.
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON – Blistering snowstorms, excruciating work hauling gear and possible death might not sound like an ideal summer vacation for most. If you are a mountaineer, then the experience is a paradise.
Courtesy Photo | Capt. Stephen Austria, project engineer in the USACE-Alaska District’s Foreign Military Sales Program, and fiancĂ© and climbing partner, Rebecca Melesciuc, take a break from descending Denali, the tallest peak in North America, for a photo. Austria and Melesciuc climbed Denali this past summer to help raise Soldier suicide awareness.
For Capt. Stephen Austria, project engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers – Alaska District’s Foreign Military Sales Program, a mid-June, non-guided expedition climbing Denali, formerly known as Mount McKinley, was a dream come true for him and girlfriend, Rebecca Melesciuc, and one he hopes brings awareness to Soldier suicide.

“Denali is the highest mountain in North America,” Austria said of the 20,310-feet peak. “Not many people want to do things like that. It is cool to say I have climbed it.”

While visibly humble, Austria explained his personal encounters with suicide. Both his best friend and a fellow Soldier with the 82nd Airborne Division committed suicide. He also knew several others in a previous unit who took their own lives. To honor those Soldiers, he carried an American flag on the majestic mountain that was with him on every mission while deployed to Iraq.

“It is a bigger issue than what some people make it out to be,” he said. “I climbed for veterans in general, too. It is a unique family that we are a part of.”
read more here

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fort Wainwright Soldier Died "Showing Gun Wasn't Loaded"

Police: Soldier dies trying to show firearm wasn't loaded
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: February 3, 2016

FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks police say an Army sergeant died when he unknowingly fired a loaded gun to his head when trying to show a friend the weapon wasn’t loaded.
Image by KTUU-TV

Police in a Tuesday statement say 25-year-old Sgt. Nathan Michael Higginbotham died early Sunday.

Police say Higginbotham had consumed alcohol and was a friend’s home in Fairbanks. He was in the process of confirming his .40 caliber Springfield XD was unloaded. Police initially said the gun was a 9 mm pistol.
read more here