Three Alaska soldier deaths over the weekend, Public Affairs told not to release

Photo: Andrea Salgado Rivera / US Army
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF)

UPDATE 1:00PM:

U.S. Army Alaska Media Relations Chief John Pennell has released an additional statement saying that there was a mistake in communication between higher public affairs and our office, and now it will return to normal policy where we will announce every soldier's death no matter the circumstances.

Original Story:

Over the weekend, there were three non-combat related deaths of soldiers stationed in Alaska.

Two of the deaths were of soldiers stationed at Fort Wainwright.

The Department of Defense announced on Wednesday October 30, 2019 that a soldier from Fort Wainwright, Sgt. Nathaneil George Irish, 23 years old, who was deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve died on Saturday October 27th, of a non-combat related incident at Camp Taji, Iraq. Irish was a small arms/artillery repair NCO with the 25th Brigade Support Battalion, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. The incident is under investigation.

After hearing about two other deaths that occurred over the same weekend, we reached out to U.S. Army Alaska who confirmed that it was true. U.S. Army Alaska Media Relations Chief John Pennell confirmed that there was two non-combat related deaths of soldiers from Fort Wainwright, and JBER.

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan Christopher Sweesy, 40 years old, was found dead at his home in North Pole, Alaska on October 26th. Sweesy is from Houston, Texas and joined the Army in November 2004 and reported to Fort Wainwright in July 2017. Sweesy was an automotive maintenance warrant officer for the 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division. His death is under investigation.

Specialist Colton Gregory Patton, 22 years old, was found dead at his home in Anchorage, Alaska on October 27th. Patton is from Brockway, Pennsylvania and joined the Army in February 2016 and reported to JBER in November 2016. Patton was a wheeled-vehicle mechanic with the 95th Chemical Company, 17th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, and U.S. Army Alaska.

Pennell also made us aware that there is a new policy where U.S. Army Alaska will no longer release non-combat related deaths. If someone is made aware of a death, information will still be available upon request but their office will not be publicly releasing the information.

According to Pennell, this new policy change came from the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs in Washington D.C. We are waiting to hear back from their office for confirmation and comment.

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