November 13, 2008 – For the second time this year, a soldier has been found dead in a medical barracks at Fort Huachuca. And it may be awhile before answers are available in either case.
The body of Pvt. Paul Muse, 22, a native of Oklahoma, was discovered Saturday morning in the fort’s Warrior Transition Unit, which provides medical and mental-health support for soldiers wounded in action or troops recovering from other medical conditions.
A non-commissioned officer found Muse unresponsive in his room and called 911. The soldier was pronounced dead at the scene, a news release said.
Less than 10 months ago, another 22-year-old soldier was found dead in the same medical unit in a similar scenario.
The lifeless body of Pfc. Eli Baker of California was discovered in his room by a non-commissioned officer on Jan. 28, a Monday morning. Baker also was declared dead at the scene.
Fort Huachuca, about 75 miles southeast of Tucson, announced the second death on Wednesday, five days after it occurred.
Officials said the delay was because they couldn’t immediately verify when Muse’s family had been notified, because the fatality fell on a weekend that was followed by the Veterans Day holiday.
The latest death is under investigation, a process that may take several months, officials said.
The probe into January’s death was recently completed, but is still under review and won’t be made public until Baker’s family is told of the findings. When that might happen wasn’t clear on Wednesday.
Chis Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, which is responsible for such inquiries, said it’s not unusual for deaths to take many months to investigate because Army detectives are extremely thorough as they search for answers.
“We treat every death as if it was a homicide,” Grey said. “We want to make sure we find out exactly what transpired.”
Warrior Transition Units are fairly new creations and several, including the one at Fort Huachuca, are being reviewed for possible closure, The Associated Press recently reported.
The units were set up at dozens of Army posts around the country last year in the wake of controversy over conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and concerns over follow-up care for veterans wounded in action.
The AP report said up to half of soldiers who ended up in the new units did not have medical problems serious enough to warrant them being there, and that most did not have combat injuries.
It isn’t clear why the two soldiers who died in Fort Huachuca’s Warrior Transition Unit were assigned to the medical barracks, but it appears that neither had battlefield injuries.
Muse, the soldier who died Saturday, enlisted in 2006 and had never been to war. Before being assigned to the medical unit on Oct. 6, Muse was a nodal network systems operator maintainer with the 40th Signal Battalion in Fort Huachuca’s 11th Signal Brigade.
Baker had recently finished boot camp and was still in training when he died.
Fort Huachuca spokeswoman Tanja Linton declined to comment Wednesday on whether there were any common links in the two deaths. She said it was premature to draw conclusions because the probe into the second fatality had just begun.