DoD Identifies Airman Who Died in Non-Combat Incident in Syria

By: AF Times Staff report, March 30, 2017 (Photo Credit: Air Force)

The Defense Department on Thursday released the name of a security forces airman who died in Syria while supporting Operation Inherent Resolve.

 Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, died Tuesday in northern Syria in a non-combat related incident. Bieren, who was from Umatilla, Oregon, was assigned to the 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado.

 Officials did not immediately release any additional information about what happened to Bieren, but an initial news release said the death appeared to be the result of natural causes.

 "Staff Sgt. Bieren was a valuable and beloved member of our team and will be sorely missed," Col. Douglas Schiess, commander of the 21st Space Wing, said in the wing's release Thursday. "His dedication to his country was evident in his actions. He was a superb airman."

 The 21st declined to release further information about what unit Bieren was supporting and what he was doing in northern Syria.

However, Maj. Gen. Jay Silveria said at a conference earlier this month that Air Force engineers have built and expanded an airfield in northern Syria to bring in crucial supplies, including ammunition, to assist with the fight against the Islamic State. Silveria said March 2 that airfield had seen 50 C-17 landings and more than 100 C-130 landings.

This marks the second known loss of an American service member in Syria. It is the first since late November, when 42-year-old Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Cooper Dayton was killed by an improvised explosive blast near Ayn Issa, north of Raqqa, which the Islamic State considers its capital.

There are about 900 U.S. troops in Syria providing various forms of support to allies leading the ground war against ISIS. Most are special operations forces, though some conventional Marine artillery personnel have arrived in recent weeks as efforts intensify around Raqqa.

To the west, a force of several dozen Army Rangers continue to patrol the city of Manbij. They were sent there in early March to prevent ethnic rivals from battling one another.

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