Second US Service Member Found Dead Along Southern Border

By Victor Westerkamp

A second U.S. military service member serving at the U.S.-Mexico border has been found dead near Ajo in Arizona, according to a statement by officials at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The identity of the deceased and the cause or time of death are still under investigation and have not been made public yet, though foul play is not expected, The Associated Press reported.

This is the second case of a military service member being found dead in Arizona near the Mexican border this month. On June 1, the body of 20-year-old PFC Steven Hodges was found near Nogales, Arizona, the Tucson Sentinel reported.

The nature of Hodges’ death was said in initial reports to not have been suspicious and the cause of death was unknown. Few details have been released. Capt. Jason C. Elmore, spokesman for the U.S. Army North public affairs department, told AZcentral that the death is still under investigation.

Hodges, from Menifee, California, enlisted in 2017 and had been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon during his service.

Hodges served as a member of a unit in “Task Force Red Lion,” which entailed mainly mobile surveillance. Task Force Red Lion was part of the deployment of more than 2,000 active-duty troops along the U.S.-Mexico border, ordered by President Donald Trump.

“Every Soldier in the Tomahawk Battalion is an essential member of our team. The loss of any Soldier is deeply felt,” Lt. Col. Sean Lyons, the battalion commander said of Hodges’ passing in a statement. “Private First Class Steven Hodges is sorely missed by his teammates and the entire Tomahawk family, every Soldier is a national treasure.

“We are grateful for all the young men and women who volunteer to serve our nation. We are humbled at the sacrifices their families continue to make on a daily basis, Steven and his family are in our prayers.”

Trump: Additional Armed Border Troops After US Soldiers Held at Gunpoint

Additional troops sent to the U.S.–Mexico border will be armed, Trump announced after two U.S. soldiers were held at gunpoint and questioned by Mexican troops on the U.S. side of the border on April 13.

“Mexico’s Soldiers recently pulled guns on our National Guard Soldiers, probably as a diversionary tactic for drug smugglers on the Border. Better not happen again!” Trump said in an April 24 tweet. “We are now sending ARMED SOLDIERS to the Border. Mexico is not doing nearly enough in apprehending & returning!”

There are about 5,000 troops deployed at the border, including some 3,000 active-duty and 2,100 National Guard members, The Military Times reported on April 10.

Their mission is to reinforce border barriers and provide logistical support to the Border Patrol, amid a surge in illegal border crossings this year.

Army soldiers walk toward the mess tent where troops deployed to the U.S.–Mexico border are enjoying a Thanksgiving meal on a base near the Donna-Rio Bravo International Bridge in Donna, Texas, on Nov. 22, 2018. (Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

The military can’t engage in domestic law enforcement unless authorized by Congress, but it can potentially use lethal force in defense of the border agents.

Most troops were deployed without their service weapons, then-Defense Secretary Gen. Jim Mattis said in November 2018.

Under Threat of US Tariffs, Mexico Stepping Up at the Border

The Mexican government said on June 21 that it has completed its deployment of 6,000 National Guard agents to help control the flow of illegal migrants headed toward the United States and filled 650 immigration agency posts to regulate border crossings.

The announcement by foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard comes as Mexico puts into effect a deal on illegal immigration reached with Washington to head off tariffs that President Donald Trump threatened to slap on all imports from Mexico if nothing was done about the flow of illegal aliens travelling to the United States mainly through Mexico.

A Mexican official, who was not authorized to speak about the deployment and requested anonymity, told The Associated Press that the National Guard agents have not been visible in large contingents because they are spread along the southern border that stretches more than 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) and as well as up Mexico’s southern isthmus. They were also deployed to remote areas to target human smugglers, the official said.

The Associated Press and Epoch Times reporter Peter Svab contributed to this report.