Fort Hood Pvt. Michael Garcia, US Army, Died in Vehicle Training Incident at Fort Irwin, California; Under Investigation (2017)

US Army Seal

Pvt. Michael Garcia, US Army

Fort Hood Soldier Pvt. Michael Garcia, 29, died of injuries suffered during a vehicle training incident at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California on February 17, 2017. Pvt. Garcia’s home of record is listed as Fayetteville, North Carolina and he joined the Army in March 2016. Pvt. Garcia was an indirect fire infantryman assigned to the 4th Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas. The circumstances surrounding the incident are under investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID).

Related Links:
Obituary: Michael Luis Garcia
Death of a Fort Hood Soldier
Fort Hood soldier dies in training accident
Fayetteville soldier dies in training accident at Fort Hood, Texas
Fort Hood soldier dies in training accident at the National Training Center
Why Have So Many Fort Hood Army Soldiers Died Stateside in the Last Year?
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas
The Fort Hood Fallen on Facebook

Army Soldiers at Fort Hood in Texas Are Dying at Alarming Rates Stateside

US Army

Fort Hood, U.S. Army

  • 1 Fort Hood soldier missing
  • 58 deaths at Fort Hood since 1/16
  • 4 insider attacks in Afghanistan
  • 1 non combat death in Iraq
  • 53 stateside non combat deaths
    • 2 homicides off base
    • 11 found dead on post
    • 19 found dead off post
    • 10 died in training accidents
    • 2 died from medical issues
    • 5 died in motorcycle accidents
    • 3 died in automobile accidents
    • 1 died unexpectedly out of state

I have been working in real time in an effort to collect the information of the soldiers we have lost stateside and overseas for a project I am working on. I started these efforts quite a few years ago but am now just pulling things together by base. Fort Hood has come up in research enough to warrant investigation into a problem with untimely deaths in the form of training accidents, vehicle accidents, motorcycle accidents, suicide, violent crime, non combat death, insider attacks, and unknown causes of death. I noticed a large spike in soldier death in November 2016 when we learned that four soldiers died stateside at Fort Hood and two died in a suicide bombing on a protected base in Afghanistan at the start of a Veteran Day fun run. Allan Brown eventually succumbed to his injuries from the blast in December 2016. And because I track military crime and suspicious death cases both stateside and overseas, I observe far more death when looking at the big picture.

I kept up with November 2016 and honored the service members we lost that month. Since then, we have lost at least seven more Fort Hood soldiers which is why I created this post. There has been an unusually high cluster of deaths at one base in the last year. The Army has announced they are going to probe the unusually high death counts but like most things, the report will come back with some canned response to protect the Chain of Command. We want to protect all the soldiers by doing our own probe. After doing a google search ‘Soldier Found Dead Fort Hood’ I learned that 2016 was a tough year for the base in general. I want to acknowledge the families who have lost their loved ones. I want to acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the soldiers who have died. I want to acknowledge the soldiers who were impacted by the untimely deaths of their fellow soldiers. It can’t be easy for a post to lose one soldier, let alone several.

January 2016
1/3: Devin Schuette, 35, US Army (found dead on post)
1/16: Troy Wayman, 45, US Army (officer found dead off post)

March 2016
3/6: Sean Van Der Wal, 25, US Army (fatal auto accident off post)
3/14: Brian Reed, 40, US Army (found dead w/ gunshot wound off post)
3/20: Andrew Poznick, 45, US Army (officer found dead in Pennsylvania)
3/22: Steven Lewis, 33, US Army (died of self-inflicted wound off post)

May 2016
5/1: John Stobbe, 31, US Army (found dead off post)
5/9: Ellsworth Raup, 33, US Army (fatal motorcycle accident off post)
5/23: Marcus Nelson, 45, US Army (died while in custody at local jail)

June 2016
6/2: Christine Armstrong, 27, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Brandon Banner, 22, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Miguel Colonvazquez, 38, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Isaac Deleon, 19, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Zachary Fuller, 23, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Eddy Gates, 20, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Tysheena James, 21, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Yingming Sun, 25, US Army (died in flood training incident)
6/2: Mitchell Winey, 21, US Military Academy (died in flood training incident)
6/6: Bernardino Guevara Jr., 21, US Army (died of gunshot wound on post)
6/5: Antino Glass, 34, US Army (fatal motorcycle accident)
6/10: Duane Shaw, 34, US Army (found dead off post)
6/11: Dougal Mitchell, 32, US Army (fatal automobile accident off post)

July 2016
7/12: Alexander Johnson, 21, US Army (found dead on post)

August 2016
8/1: Logan Rainwater, 24, US Army (fatal motorcycle accident off post)
8/4: Calvin Aguilar, 32, US Army (found dead off post)
8/19: Dion Servant, 24, US Army (found dead on post)

September 2016
9/9: Stacy Hardy, 20, US Army (fatal motorcycle accident)
9/13: Andrew Hunt, 23, US Army (officer found dead at on post residence)
9/17: Nathan Berg, 20, US Army (died of gunshot wound off post)

October 2016
10/7: Bradley Acker, 25, US Army (death was self-inflicted at off post residence)
10/15: Douglas Bailey, 24, US Army (found dead at off post residence)
10/20: Douglas Riney, 26, US Army (ambushed by lone gunman in Afghanistan Army uniform)

November 2016
11/3: Dakota Stump, 19, US Army (found dead on post after went missing)
11/12: Tyler Iubelt, 20, US Army (suicide Bomber on base, Afghanistan)
11/12: John Perry, 30, US Army (suicide Bomber on base, Afghanistan)
11/10: Daniel Monibe, 32, US Army (died of illness off post)
11/16: Kevin Paulino, 24, US Army (died of self-inflicted gunshot wound in Indiana)
11/18: Korey James, 21, US Army (found dead at off post residence)
11/26: Wanya Bruns, 20, US Army (died of gunshot wound off-post)

December 2016
12/6: Allan Brown, 46, US Army (suicide Bomber on base, Afghanistan)
12/24: Paige Briles, 21, US Army (found dead at on post residence)

January 2017
1/1: Kai Yancey, 26, US Army (died of medical illness)
1/2: Randal Anderson, 22, US Army (died of gunshot wound off-post)
1/7: Barron Von Reichelt, 24, US Army (fatal auto accident)
1/11: Alex Taylor, 23, US Army (found dead on post)
1/12: Zackary Partin, 24, US Army (found dead at on post residence)

February 2017
2/5: Steven Hines, 29, US Army (CID Agent found dead behind building)
2/6: Christie Anderson, 44, US Army (found dead at off post residence)
2/17: Michael Garcia, 29, US Army (died in vehicle training accident)
2/18: Sean Callahan, 31, US Army (passed away unexpectedly in Iowa)
2/21: Brian Odiorne, 21, US Army (non combat related incident, Iraq)
2/27: Andre Nance, 34, US Army (found dead on post at Fort Rucker, AL)

March 2017
3/26: Jonathan Garcia, 29, US Army (fatal motorcycle accident)

April 2017
4/7: Daniel Wildeman, 40, US Army (found dead on post in barracks)
4/11: Unnamed Soldier, US Army (swept into Clear Creek near Turkey Run Rd, missing)
4/16: David Ananou, 30, US Army (death by apparent drowning at Belton Lake)
4/17: Justin Lewis, 19, US Army (shot to death in Killeen, ruled homicide)

May 2017
5/5: Travis Granger, 29, US Army Veteran (found dead of gunshot wound, ruled homicide)
5/14: Jon Bullard, 40, US Army (found unresponsive at off post residence in Temple, died next day)

Learn more:
Honoring the U.S. Service Members Who Died in November 2016
Violent Crime, Suicide, and Non Combat Death at Fort Hood, Texas (US Army)
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
Soldier standoffs: Police, community respond to scars of war

Fort Campbell Army Spc. Dhaifal Ali Swept Away by Creek Current During Baptism with Sgt Marcus Rogers, Cause of Death Ruled Accidental Drowning (2016)

ali

Spc. Dhaifal Ali, US Army

On July 11, 2016, Army soldier Specialist Dhaifal Ali of Fort Campbell, Kentucky was swept away by a creek current on the post. Spc. Ali was at the creek with two other Army soldiers, one of them was Sgt. Marcus Rogers, who was baptizing him. The Emergency Management Agency reported that the creek had been swollen from heavy rains and severe storms; Dhaifal Ali’s body was recovered several days later and his obituary lists the date of his death on July 12, 2016. On September 6, 2016, Fort Campbell reported that they were investigating the circumstances surrounding Ali’s ‘accidental death.’ MJFA received notification this month that Sgt. Marcus Rogers had an Army hearing to determine his culpability in Ali’s death. An Instagram update on December 15, 2016 revealed that Sgt. Rogers was demoted one rank from SSG to SGT as a result of his involvement in the accidental drowning of Spc. Ali. Sources reveal on YouTube that Sgt. Roger’s failed to follow military orders when he took Spc. Ali to the creek which was off limits.

Related Links:
Obituary: Dhaifal Ali
Spc. Dhaifal Ali, 34, US Army – Remembrance
Army identifies 101st Airborne soldier who was swept away in creek
Search continues for Fort Campbell soldier swept away in creek
Fort Campbell soldier’s body found after being swept away in creek
Fort Campbell Soldier Drowns
Soldier Swept Away in Severe Weather Is Identified
Fort Campbell soldier who died in creek identified
Fort Campbell soldier swept away by current identified
Fort Campbell soldier whose body was found in creek identified
Soldier Drowns After Baptism Goes Bad At Fort Campbell
Soldier said to have been killed in flood may have been drowned by a Staff Sergeant
Fort Campbell Soldier, Muslim Convert Drowns After Baptism by Popular Internet Christian Preacher
The Death of Dhaifal Ali ….by Marcus Rogers (YouTube)
JUSTICE for Spec.Dhaifal Ali (YouTube)
Fort Campbell Soldier Drowns After Baptism

Spc. Adrian Avila, US Army, Died of a Non Combat Related Accident in Khabari Crossing, Kuwait (2009)

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Spc. Adrian Avila, US Army

Spc. Adrian Avila, 19, US Army, died of a non combat related accident in Khabari Crossing, Kuwait on October 29, 2009. Spc. Avila was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 1343rd Chemical Company, 151st Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear Battalion, 115th Fires Brigade of the Alabama Army National Guard in Fort Payne, Alabama. According to the Department of Defense the incident is under investigation.

Related Links:
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Spc. Adrian L. Avila
Opelika soldier dies in Kuwait accident
Alabama Guardsman who died in Kuwait to be buried
Alabama soldier who died in non-combat Kuwait accident remembered for his pride, service
Soldier death: Spc. Adrian L. Avila, 19, of Opelika dies of non-combat related injuries
US troops killed in Iraq and Kuwait
Adrian L Avila, Opelika, Alabama, October 29, 2009

Spc Marisol Heredia, US Army (2007)

Honoring Marisol Heredia @USArmy (2007)

Spc Marisol Heredia, 19, Petroleum Supply Specialist, US Army, September 7, 2007

Non-Combat Death; Severely burned while refueling a generator in Iraq; Incident Under Investigation; Transferred to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; She died of infection because her bodily defenses were seriously compromised due to the extent of her burns.

In war-torn Baghdad, Heredia, who held the rank of Specialist 4, was badly burned in an accident July 18. According to family members, the accident occurred while she was fueling a generator. The incident is under investigation. ~Los Angeles Times

Army Spc. Marisol Heredia
Army Spc. Marisol Heredia, 19, El Monte; dies after being badly burned in Baghdad

SSG Alicia Birchett, US Army (2007)

Ssg Alicia Birchett, US Army (2007)

SSG Alicia Birchett, US Army, August 9, 2007

Non-combat related vehicle accident; Iraq; Her family said she was fatally injured when the brakes of a truck failed while she changed a tire.

Army Staff Sgt. Alicia A. Birchett
Sgt. Alicia Birchett: 101st Airborne soldier dies in Iraq 8-07

Sandra Grant, 23, US Navy, Died of Natural Causes While Aboard the USS Eisenhower in Support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (2006)

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Seaman Sandra Grant, US Navy

Navy Seaman Sandra Grant, 23, died of a natural causes (cardiac arrest) while aboard a ship in the Arabian Sea on December 31, 2006. Seaman Grant was a Damage Control Fireman supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower. Naval officials reported the death was under investigation but preliminary findings pointed to natural causes. Sandra was a sailor, a family member, a friend, a wife, and the mother of a baby boy. She was also one of three sailors announced in the Department of Defense press release that died of ‘natural causes’ or an ‘accident’ in a hostile fire zone in support of OIF.  Lt. Cmdr. Jane Lanham, 43, died from natural causes on September 19, 2006 in Bahrain. Petty Officer 3rd Class Roger Napper, 20, died of trauma from a single motor vehicle accident on October 7, 2006 in Bahrain.

[Sandra’s] father said the news came as a total shock because she was always healthy and didn’t have any prior medical condition. –The-Dispatch.com

Related Links:
DoD Identifies Navy Casualties
Navy Seaman Sandra S. Grant
SMN Sandra Stephanie Grant Fry
Sandra Stephanie Grant, US Navy
Sailor carried on family’s legacy

Lt Col Dominic ‘Rocky’ Baragona, US Army, Died After a Tractor-Trailer Jackknifed on the Road and Collided with his HMMWV in Iraq (2003)

LTC Rocky Baragona, US Army (2003)

LTC Dominic ‘Rocky’ Baragona, US Army

Lt. Col. Dominic ‘Rocky’ Baragona, 42, US Army, was killed on May 19, 2003 in Iraq. A tractor-trailer jackknifed on the road and collided with Lt. Col. Baragona’s HMMWV causing his death. Baragona was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 19th Maintenance Battalion at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. At the time of the press release, the incident was under investigation.

Related Links:
DoD Identifies Army Casualty
Army Lt. Col. Dominic R. Baragona
Dominic Rocco Baragona, Lieutenant Colonel, United States Army
Ohioan killed in Iraq laid to rest
Glimpses of U.S. soldiers killed in May
Love and sacrifice
Vice President’s Remarks at the U.S. Military Academy Commencement
Baragona V. Kuwait Gulf Links Transport Co
Court: Contractor owes $5 million to U.S. soldier’s family
Dad of dead Ohio soldier seeks justice from Congress
Soldier’s family brings fight with contractor to Congress
Congressman Ryan to Introduce Baragona at Senate Hearing
Father of valley soldier testifies before Congress
Senators introduce enhanced Baragona legislation
Lieutenant Colonel Dominic “Rocky” Baragona Justice for American Heroes Harmed by Contractors Act
Kuwait Contractor Fights $4.9 Million Ga. Judgment on Jurisdictional Grounds
Judge overturns $4.9M award in Iraq death of Ohio soldier
Court Dismisses Dominic “Rocky” Baragona Lawsuit
Should Foreign Contractors Be Held Accountable in US Courts?
The struggle to police foreign subcontractors in Iraq and Afghanistan
Letter to Roberts Gates from Senator Claire McCaskill (2011)
Dads mourn sons lost in wars

Estevan Maestas Tragically Killed After He Detonated Live Hand Grenade Found in Rental Garage; Colorado Springs PD Believes Explosive Device Stolen from the Fort Carson Army Post (1978)


When a mysterious explosion rocks a sleepy suburb, it’s up to Kenda to ID a pile of charred remains and find the killer who triggered the blast. -Investigation Discovery

Homicide Hunter is an Investigation Discovery show featuring retired police Detective Lt. Joe Kenda (1973-1996). Lt. Kenda worked for the Colorado Springs Police Department for years and investigated and solved hundreds of cases during his employment. Now in his retirement, he outlines the cases that he encountered on the job and explains how he eventually solved the case. Colorado Springs is home of Fort Carson, an Army base with about 30,000 soldiers. This show is especially interesting given the fact that Lt. Kenda worked in a city with a close proximity to a large base. We have learned over time just how intertwined his job was with a military base known for an active role in fighting wars overseas over the years.

Exercises and deployments continually hone the skills of the Fort Carson Soldiers. When not deployed, Soldiers train annually at Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site and the National Training Center in California. Additionally, units participate in joint exercises around the world, including Central and South Africa, Europe, and Southwest Asia. In 2003, most Fort Carson units were deployed in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. ~Fort Carson History

Last night, Lt Joe Kenda discussed an explosives case that had been assigned to him. A powerful explosion occurred in a suburban neighborhood of Colorado Springs.  He was actually working on paperwork on a Sunday when he received a call from police on the scene. They think they found human remains in the remnants of a detached garage near a single dwelling home.  Joe was asked to investigate because this could be an intentional act of murder.  Joe shared that the scenes he has investigated over the years have been horrific and quite shocking to include this one.  As a result, he admitted that he has a hard time eating and sleeping, which are both signs of Post Traumatic Stress of which he admitted he has. This is a normal response for anyone who witnesses these acts of horror, especially over a long period of time.

After Joe arrived on the scene, he deduced that the damage looked like shrapnel damage. But his immediate thought was that it was most likely a gas explosion. He notices in the garage what looks like a large pile of human remains. Based on the remains, he assumed that it was most likely an adult male who was killed. If it’s not a gas explosion, what is it? A couple theories began to emerge including maybe the man lit a cigarette in an area with gas cans and exposed fuel or the victim was booby trapped with hidden wire. This could have been a murder.

Based on his fears of more explosives on scene, he decided to call the Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) Bomb Squad to investigate further to determine whether there were any more active munitions. He explained how explosive technicians truly understand explosives and other various devices. As soon as the Bomb Squad arrived at the scene, they immediately recognized the explosive had the smell of a military explosive. Fort Carson had this kind of ammunition on their base since before World War II. The Bomb Squad theorized that somebody from the base most likely smuggled it from Fort Carson and brought it to the current location.  A CSPD detective explained how now we have robots to investigate bomb scares but back then we didn’t have that. Explosive technicians put their lives on the line everyday but more so before the advent of robots and other technologies to help minimize the danger of their jobs.

The CSPD Bomb Squad found another hand grenade in the garage that appeared to be live. An ordinance specialist entered the garage and not only found another grenade but he also found evidence of the dead man who was blown up by the first grenade. The second grenade appeared to be untampered with and there were no other explosives found at that location. Police suspected that the victim could have been in the building when someone threw the grenade in. They needed to learn more about the victim to determine if he had any enemies that would do something like this. They learned that the house is a rental and the current tenants only moved in a couple of months ago. The neighbor shared that a man named Estevan had recently retired and moved into this location. While on scene, a police officer found a human index finger quite a distance from the remnants of the garage. This discovery changed the whole direction of the case because the finger was found with a wire around it and this was the pin ring from the hand grenade. The victim may have pulled the pin and detonated the explosive. This could have been an accident.

Joe needed to identify the victim so he started with taking the victim’s finger to the lab so they could attempt to identify him by finger print. The lab technicians told him that without a name, it could take months before they get a match. In the meantime, Estevan’s wife showed up at the police station after learning what happened at her residence. Joe had to tell her that her husband was dead. She shared that his name was Estevan Maestas and he was a custodian at the school with finger prints on file. Estevan was simply going to clean out the garage because the people who lived their before left a bunch of junk in there. She left the house after he went out to the garage. Because his past did not indicate that this could have been a suicide attempt, it was theorized that this was in fact a tragic accident. Estevan most likely found the grenade, had no idea that it was live and maybe he thought it was a toy. He pulled the pin and he never felt a thing, he never knew what hit him.

The CSPD speculated that the grenades had been stolen from Fort Carson and brought into this rental home by a soldier. They assumed that most likely this guy didn’t want to deal with having to dispose of the grenades so he just left them there to become the next person’s problem. This was a hard pill to swallow given a man lost his life over this reckless act. Why was it not followed up on? Given how the military has strict regulations and is supposed to have strict chain of custody records to help them track all explosives, it should be easy to determine whether or not this grenade came from this base. It could have been brought home as a souvenir from World War II, Vietnam, or the Gulf War era. Were they able to cross reference the rental records at the location of the explosion with Fort Carson soldiers? This case revealed more mystery then resolve. If a soldier did smuggle the grenades from the base, why was there no investigation for theft, and now maybe even manslaughter? It is assumed that this person intentionally left them behind because they didn’t want to properly dispose of them.

In theory, no soldier should have been able to get these grenades on a plane or off the base without a search or a documentation trail given how the military usually conducts business. Much like communications security equipment (COMSEC), ammunition is inventoried and kept under lock and key in an effort to prevent compromises with dangerous repercussions.  In most circumstances, if Fort Carson recognized that ammunition was missing, they would shut down the base until they found it. If someone dropped the ball at Fort Carson, a man lost his life because of careless documentation and security practices. And the Colorado bomb squad and Lt. Joe Kenda risked their lives in an effort to prevent anyone else from getting hurt or killed. Hopefully, soldiers learn a valuable lesson from this circumstance given it could have been a harmless act that went terribly wrong. Whoever left the grenades behind may not have intended for Estevan Maestas to die but he did. If a military member was responsible, it would be nice to know that the military has implemented safety and security procedures that can help prevent this kind of a tragedy from ever happening in our communities again.

Related Links:
Homicide Hunter ‘Point of No Return’
Va. Man Finds a Hand Grenade While Doing Yard Work
Army Vet Arrested For Storing Anti-Tank Round On Roof Of His Home
War keepsakes, lookalike grenades surface unexpectedly
Bomb squad investigating grenade ‘donated’ to Goodwill
Neighbors Make Explosive Find While Cleaning Veteran’s Closet
Former Army explosives tech pleads guilty to having live grenades
Grenade Found in Maryland Home During Eviction
Mom: 12-year-old finds old grenade near family’s front porch
2 grenades found in refrigerator at nursing home
‘Don’t assume it’s safe,’ police warn of finding veterans’ explosive memorabilia
Lessons Learned from a Military Ammunitions Explosion in Colorado Springs