The Department of Defense announced today the death of a security forces airman who was supporting Operation Inherent Resolve. Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, of Umatilla, Oregon, died March 28 in northern Syria in a non-combat-related incident while deployed in support of combat operations. He was assigned to the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. AP said in a statement from the base, Bieren died from “suspected natural causes.” Wing commander Col. Douglas Schiess says Bieren was “a beloved member of the team and will be sorely missed.” Bieren graduated from Umatilla High School in 2010 and entered the Air Force that November. He had been stationed at Peterson since June 2014.
According to the Burns Mortuary of Hermiston obituary, Austin Leo Bieren, 25, “was born on January 7, 1992 in Pendleton, Oregon to John Timothy Bieren and Tracy Ann (Gibson) Finck. Austin loved to hunt, fish, and hunt some more. He enjoyed anything and everything outdoors, the true definition of a mountain man. He avidly worked out and did everything to stay healthy and active. After basic training, he married his wife, Rachel (Kennedy) Bieren, and they both moved to Minot, North Dakota and were there for three years, and then moved to Colorado Springs where Austin worked at Peterson AFB. He was deployed three times.”
“It’s tragic that we lost that young man in kind of a strange way for a 25-year-old, but nonetheless space is embedded in everything we do. So anywhere you have American military people, you’re going to have space.” (Air Force Gen. John Hyten) –Fox News (March 31, 2017)
Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander mentioned Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, a member of the 21st SW who died while serving in Syria. “We brought him home to his family, took care of his family and still are.” –21st Space Wing, USAF (June 21, 2017)
Army Sgt. Sean Callahan, 31, passed away unexpectedly in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on February 18, 2017. Sgt. Callahan initially entered the Army in March 2008 as an M-1 Armor Crewman but since 2014 was assigned as a ceremony coordinator and flag custodian for the Secretary to the General Staff section, Headquarters Support Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, III Corps, at Fort Hood. According to the obituary, Sgt. Callahan deployed to Iraq in December 2009 as part of Operation New Dawn and was re-deployed in December 2010. The HHB III Corps at Fort Hood held a memorial service for Sgt. Callahan on March 2 2017, and his fellow soldiers remembered him fondly for his positive attitude and great work ethic.
“Sean’s impact on those who knew him simply cannot be measured and the absence of his infectious smile and quick wit will be deeply missed by all.” –Obituary
Army Pfc. Kai Yancey, 26, died at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas after complications from a short illness on January 1, 2017. Pfc. Yancey’s home of record was listed as El Paso, Texas; he entered active-duty military service in February 2015 as a motor transport operator. Pfc. Yancey was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood since 2016.
“He was a member of East Side Church of Christ, where he was a past member of the Youth Group and enjoyed watching movies, skate boarding, wrestling, boxing, water skiing, para-sailing and target shooting. He was a past member of the Warren Boxing Association, where he was the Undefeated Lightweight Champion and a 2009 graduate of Howland High School, where he excelled in wrestling. He married Janelle March 16, 2016.” –Obituary
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SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves (2014)
Honoring SSG Virginia Caballero, US Army Reserves, who became ill while en-route from Kuwait and then died unexpectedly shortly thereafter at a hospital in Rockford, Illinois on September 13, 2014. Apparently the commercial plane needed fuel and/or had to do an emergency landing for Virginia in Rockford, Illinois. It appears that they were on their way to Fort McCoy in Wisconsin. According to reports, Caballero was a Reservist stationed with the 452nd Combat Support Hospital, 330th Medical Brigade out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin but trained at Fort McCoy prior to her deployment to Kuwait. She served in Kuwait for roughly eight months and for some reason was coming home a month early with a high ranking travel companion. Media reports claim she wanted to surprise her family in Texas. It is believed Caballero suffered from a blood clot which was exacerbated with the altitude on the flight. She was not listed as a non-combat death by the Department of Defense but this would in fact be considered a non-combat death due to medical. The family admits in newspaper articles that a lot of the details are sketchy.
Here are the questions we have after combing through the below articles. Why was she coming home a month early accompanied by a high ranking travel companion if she was going to surprise her family? Did something happen in country prior to her boarding that plane? Was this an early surprise for family in Texas or an expedited transfer from Kuwait back to the states? The military isn’t in the business of assigning high ranking travel companions unless there is an issue. Were there any concerns about medical health prior to boarding the plane? Where were they flying to? Rockford, Illinois is only a couple hour drive from Fort McCoy. Why did they not land the plane sooner at a larger airport like Chicago when the medical issues began to develop or the fuel began to get low? Why did the DoD not send out an official notification of non-combat death considering she was on active duty orders in support of war efforts in Kuwait? Criminal Investigation Division (CID) was assigned to investigate the cause of death of Virginia. The family was asked to submit a FOIA request for the results of the investigation.
Army Private Janelle King, 23, died of injuries suffered in a non-combat related incident in Baghdad, Iraq on August 14, 2008. Private King was working as a combat medic stationed at Camp Cropper, a military detainee center near Baghdad International Airport, on her first tour of duty at the time of her death. Pvt. King was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the 115th Combat Support Hospital at Fort Polk, Louisiana. At the time of the Department of Defense press release, the incident was under investigation. The outcome of the investigation and the official cause of death is unknown. Janelle was from Merced, California, she graduated from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mount Holly, New Jersey in 2003, and attended a culinary arts school in San Francisco, California before joining the Army in May 2007. Janelle’s father served in the active duty Air Force and she grew up as a military dependent.
“The eldest daughter of an Air Force official, King was born in Altus, Okla., and lived in California, Panama and Hawaii before graduating from Rancocas Valley Regional High School in Mt. Holly, N.J., in 2003. Brian King said his daughter’s death makes his own work in the Air Force harder at times.” –Los Angeles Times (October 26, 2008)
Navy Petty Officer First Class Cherie Morton, 40, died of a non combat death on April 20, 2008 in Galali, Muharraq, Bahrain. PO1 Morton was a military policeman supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom on behalf of the Naval Security Force, Naval Support Activity Bahrain. At the time of the Department of Defense press release, the incident was under investigation. According to media outlets, PO1 died unexpectedly and the cause of death may be due to an unknown medical cause.
The Stars and Stripes said Morton lived off base and was found in her home. According to the Navy Times, in October 2007, two female sailors were shot and killed on the U.S. naval base in Bahrain. They also said 3,600 personnel work on the American base. While terrorism has been ruled out, according to the Stars and Stripes, the cause of death is under investigation. ~23 ABC