Army Alaska sergeant dies in his Fairbanks home, second in a month

U.S. Air Force Maj. Jenna Waites poses with her child. While under official travel orders during her reassignment to the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Waites was separated from her infant for a total of 10 days, reporting the cost of transporting a 14-day supply, 350 oz. or 45-lb shipment, of breast milk coming in at just under $500. (Photo courtesy of Rachel Kay)

A field artillery NCO was found dead Nov. 12 in his off-post residence in Fairbanks, Alaska, Army officials said in a Thursday release.

Sgt. Christian Joseph D’Andrea was assigned to the Fort Wainwright, Alaska-based 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment. The unit is part of the 25th Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, known as the “Arctic Wolves.”

D’Andrea’s death is under investigation by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division and local law enforcement, according to John Pennell, an Army Alaska spokesperson.

The 22-year-old NCO was from Amarillo, Texas. He joined the Army in June 2017, according to the release, and his individual awards included an Army Commendation Medal, two Army Achievement Medals, and the Korea Defense Service Medal, among various other awards.

His battalion commander, Lt. Col. Eugene Palka, remembered him as “a well-liked and respected” member of the unit.

“During this difficult time, we ask those distressed to seek assistance—and for all teammates to be attuned to Soldiers who may be having a difficult experience,” Palko said in the release. “Continue to look out and take care of each other.”

The circumstances of D’Andrea’s death remain under investigation, but Pennell confirmed to Army Times that “no foul play is suspected.”

D’Andrea’s death comes less than a month after another soldier in his brigade died while on a training rotation.

Sgt. Joe Haflei, an infantryman assigned to the brigade’s 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, was found dead at a South Korean army base Oct. 17 while on a 90-day rotation there, according to a 2nd Infantry Division press release.

A division spokesperson said that foul play was not suspected in Haflei’s death, either.

Senior leaders have expressed their alarm about a seeming spike in suicides among military personnel stationed in Alaska.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to the state in July and received a briefing about the recent deaths.

“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 staff reporter covering the Army. He originally joined Military Times as a reporting intern in 2020. Before journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.