Two soldiers assigned to Army units based in Alaska died off-duty in the past week, and foul play is not suspected in either case, Army officials confirmed Tuesday evening.
With their deaths, a grim figure has increased: four soldiers assigned to Alaska units have died since mid-October, with investigations ongoing for each.
The first of the two deaths occurred in Fairbanks, where Spc. Isaiah Nicholas Oneal died in his personal vehicle on Friday, said Army Alaska spokesperson John Pennell. The cause of death is still under investigation by Alaska State Troopers and the Army Criminal Investigation Division.
The 22-year-old wheeled vehicle mechanic was assigned to the 25th Brigade Support Battalion, part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team. He joined the Army in November 2017, and his individual awards included the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal.
Lt. Col. William Bennett, his battalion commander, described the Tyner, North Caroline native as “a dedicated soldier,” adding that the unit “continue[s] to grieve.”
“During this difficult time, we ask those distressed to seek assistance,” Bennett said. “We ask that all Arctic Wolves to check on their fellow soldiers and families and to look out and take care of each other during the holidays.”
The second soldier who died was Sgt. Miles Jordan Tarron, a 30-year-old CBRN sergeant assigned to the 6th Brigade Engineer Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. He was found dead in his vehicle on Sunday in Anchorage, according to an Army Alaska release. The Anchorage Police Department and CID are investigating to determine cause of death, said Pennell.
Tarron, who hailed from Indianola, Oklahoma, joined the service in October 2016, according to the release. He deployed to Afghanistan from September 2017 to March 2018, and he also deployed to Kuwait in 2020 when the 82nd Airborne Division’s alert brigade was rushed into theater amid spiraling relations with Iran.
His individual awards include the Army Commendation Medal with “C” device, denoting its award for combat service, a second Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, and the Combat Action Badge.
“Sgt. Tarron was more than just a disciplined paratrooper,” said Lt. Col. Justin Pritchard, 6th BEB commander. “He was also a dedicated husband, father and friend whose infectious smile and light-hearted demeanor made all those around him feel welcomed.”
The deaths are the most recent in a string of four since mid-October. Sgt. Joe Haflei died during a training rotation to Korea on Oct. 17, and Sgt. Christian D’Andrea was found dead in his Fairbanks home on Nov. 12. Three of the four were assigned to the 1st SBCT, which is stationed at Fort Wainwright.
Army officials have not publicly acknowledged causes of death in the four most recent cases, citing ongoing investigations.
Senior leaders previously expressed their alarm about a seeming spike in suicides — six in the first five months of 2021 — among military personnel stationed in Alaska. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to the state in July.
“I’m deeply concerned about the suicide rates, not only here but across the force,” Austin said at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, during the visit. “One loss by suicide is too many. While we’re working hard on this problem, we have a lot more to do.”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.