US soldier found dead at the US-Mexican border has been identified

A U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Agent speaks to a group of media during a press conference in Sunland Park, New Mexico, June 6. The Department of Defense has deployed units across the Southwest Border at the request of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and is providing surveillance and detection, logistical, engineering, and force protection functions. (U.S. Army photo by: Spc. Christina Westover)

AUSTIN, Texas — An Army private from California was found dead during the weekend as he served as part of the Defense Department’s mission along the U.S.-Mexico border, the service said Monday.

Pfc. Steven Hodges, 20, of Menifee, which is about 35 miles south of San Bernardino in Southern California, was found dead Saturday, according to a news release from the 7th Infantry Division at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Hodges was deployed with the division’s 1st “Tomahawk” Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment.

Hodges’ death occurred near Nogales, Ariz., about 65 miles south of Tucson, according to a statement released Monday from U.S. Northern Command, which oversees the mission to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the southern border.

The military, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are investigating circumstances surrounding the death, though foul play is not suspected, according to the NORTHCOM statement. The FBI is investigating because the death occurred on federal land.

“Every soldier in the Tomahawk Battalion is an essential member of our team. The loss of any soldier is deeply felt,” said Lt. Col. Sean Lyons, the battalion commander. “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.”

Hodges enlisted in the Army in 2017 and joined his current unit in February 2018 as a grenadier, according to the division’s news release. He was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.

About 2,100 active-duty servicemembers are deployed along the southern border with Mexico. The majority of troops work as part of a mobile surveillance mission using Border Patrol equipment to observe and report to agents instances in which migrants cross the border illegally. Other duties include logistical, aviation and food-service support.

The mission began about one year ago with the National Guard and expanded to include active-duty troops in late October. It is expected to end Sept. 30.

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