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‘No link’ between parachuting exercise and JBER soldier’s death

By KTVA Alaska 7:45 PM January 31, 2014

JBER officials say there does not appear to be a link between the Jan. 30 death of Sgt. Jose Maria Pasillas, 34, and a routine parachuting exercise.

Update: The soldier who died Thursday evening after a parachuting exercise earlier that day has been identified as Sgt. Jose Maria Pasillas, 34, a construction equipment repairer with the 23rd Engineer Company.

Pasillas was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center and underwent emergency surgery for a torn aorta, according to a statement from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

Of Fort Worth, Texas, Pasillas joined the Army in 2001 and attended basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., the statement said. He came to Alaska in August 2012 after previously being stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and Fort Bragg, N.C.

He had combat deployments to Afghanistan in 2002 and to Iraq in 2004, 2006 and 2009. An investigation into the circumstances into his death is ongoing, JBER said.


ANCHORAGE – An extreme sport for thrill seekers is just another day on the job for paratroopers at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

“Our airborne units have to maintain a regular proficiency in their airborne skills,” said JBER chief of public affairs Lt. Col. Alan Brown. “To make sure they’re up to date, they go out and try to jump routinely here on JBER.”

These soldiers train together, fight together and in some cases, live together on Army barracks. This allows soldiers to foster strong bonds between each other, Brown said.

“We get very close to those we work with because we rely on them every day, not only to make sure we’re trained and ready to go but we rely on them to keep us alive,” Brown said.

Today, members of JBER’s 6th Engineer Battalion — 2nd Engineer Brigade endured the loss of one of their own.

“Well, any time we lose a comrade in arms, it’s a significant loss,” Brown said.

A soldier had just completed plane-jumping exercise at the Malemute Drop Zone at JBER on Thursday, one of several he had made over the course of the past year.

The soldier jumped, landed and went on with business as usual.

“He actually got up, packed his shoot, put on his rucksack and was walking off,” Brown said.

That’s when JBER officials said the soldier suddenly collapsed.

On-site medics jumped into action.

“Our unit and the soldiers quickly rendered medical aid and called in a medevac,” Brown said. “He was taken quickly to Providence Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery. Unfortunately, last night about 8 p.m., he passed away.”

Did the jump contribute to this soldier’s death? Brown said it’s unlikely.

“Right now we don’t have any indication,” Brown said. “That’s an important point to note. There isn’t a clear link. It’s logical, but it’s not clear or determined yet.”

The Army is conducting an investigation into the soldier’s death. Until it’s complete, his death remains a mystery.

JBER officials said resources are being made available to the fallen soldier’s family and fellow soldiers.

The name of the soldier won’t be released until 24 hours after his next of kin have been notified.

As of Friday afternoon, the Army was still trying to locate and inform this soldier’s next of kin, according to Brown.

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