The soldier who died Saturday on the U.S.-Mexico border has been identified by Army officials.
Pfc. Steven Hodges, 20, of Menifee, California, was found dead near Nogales, Arizona, according to U.S. Northern Command.
The soldier was deployed as part of the Pentagon’s support mission to U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southwest border at the time of his death, NORTHCOM officials said.
The Army has not yet released information about how Hodges died. An investigation is ongoing, but NORTHCOM officials said foul play is not suspected.
Hodges served as a grenadier with the 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 1-2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team, according to 7th Infantry Division spokesman Lt. Col. Roger Cabiness.
Hodges enlisted in the Army in 2017. He had been at his last duty station since February 2018. Cabiness said there was no official photo available of the deceased soldier.
“Every Soldier in the Tomahawk Battalion is an essential member of our team. The loss of any Soldier is deeply felt. Private First Class Steven Hodges is sorely missed by his teammates and the entire Tomahawk family, every Soldier is a national treasure.” said Lt. Col. Sean Lyons, Hodges’ battalion commander, said in a statement.
Hodges’ awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.
“We are grateful for all the young men and women who volunteer to serve our nation," Lyons said. "We are humbled at the sacrifices their families continue to make on a daily basis, Steven and his family are in our prayers.”
About 5,000 military personnel are currently deployed to the border mission. Of those, about 3,000 are active-duty troops and about 2,000 are National Guard members. The number has fluctuated by several hundred individuals over the last six months.
The military’s current mission is in support of Homeland Security goals, which includes reinforcing barriers and providing logistics, but does not include directly engaging with or detaining immigrants and asylum seekers.
This is meant to show that the military is not acting in a law enforcement role.
However, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has considered an “amendment” to the current policy on avoiding contact with migrants.
The amendment could help troops carry out tasks like meal distribution, legal assistance and transportation, a Pentagon spokesman said.
An earlier version of this article stated that Hodges was under 7th Infantry Division. In reality, he was under 2nd Infantry Division. The 7th ID acts as an administrative headquarters based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord for Hodges’ unit.
Kyle Rempfer was an editor and reporter who has covered combat operations, criminal cases, foreign military assistance and training accidents. Before entering journalism, Kyle served in U.S. Air Force Special Tactics and deployed in 2014 to Paktika Province, Afghanistan, and Baghdad, Iraq.