Who was Brandon Diaz? Soldier, 20, found dead at Alaska base, Army probes death
Diaz was awarded Army Commendation Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Army Service Ribbon
The US Army has confirmed Spc. Brandon Ricardo Diaz was found dead at his on-post residence on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) on October 8, 2021. Few details are available about the death of the 20-year-old joint fire support specialist, including an exact cause of death. The base is located in Anchorage, Alaska, and is home to both the US Army and US Air Force.
Diaz is one of the many soldiers to have been killed on military bases in 2021. Particularly problematic has been Fort Hood in Texas, which saw 28 deaths in 2020. On October 1, we reported on the deaths of three soldiers in Fort Drum, New York by suicide. On September 10, a contractor at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida was hospitalized after an explosion.
In March and April 2020, three soldiers were found dead at JBER. In May 2021, a military police officer died by suicide at the base. Now adding to the tally is Diaz, as US military installations are struggling to combat a sudden spike in deaths. In late 2020, the US Congress decided to launch an investigation into Fort Hood, but mysterious deaths and suicide remain problems for a large number of bases.
Who was Brandon Ricardo Diaz?
The 20-year-old joined the Army in June 2019 and was with the 2nd Battalion, 377th Parachute Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry Division. Reportedly, he moved to JBER in Alaska in January 2020. One local website reported that Diaz was awarded the Army Commendation Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Army Service Ribbon in his short stint.
Little else is known about the soldier, who is reportedly from Tucson, Arizona. A cause of death is yet to be established, with an investigation ongoing headed by the Army Criminal Investigation Division. Beyond the announcement of his death, the army has not provided further details, so we can only speculate as to what happened. But given the role of the Criminal Investigation Division, it appears to be an unnatural death.
According to one report, JBER appears to have a major issue with suicides, accounting for the highest number in the US. By May 2021, six soldiers had died by suicide on the base, with JBER recording nearly four times the average of other bases. A vast number of those appear to be linked to reports of sexual assault, another major issue that has been plaguing all branches of the armed service for years. While Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has expressed concern, so far little has been done in the way of action to prevent such deaths at military installations.
In recent years, the US Army has spent over $200m on JBER to improve living conditions, which could also be potentially linked to the many deaths at the base. Soldiers deployed to JBER often face temperatures as low as minus 60, geographical and social isolation, and high costs of living. Adding to that, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen JBER declare a public health emergency in mid-September, as Alaska saw a massive surge in cases. It's unclear though if any of these factors lead to the death of Spc. Diaz.