When you’re in the military, risk does not just come from enemies abroad.
Officials have identified a U.S. Army soldier who died after sustaining injuries in a bear attack Tuesday at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska.
Staff Sgt. Seth Michael Plant, 30, an infantryman from the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, was part of a small group training in an area west of the Anchorage Regional Landfill when the attack took place, the base said Thursday.
Plant was “transported to the JBER hospital after the mauling where he was declared dead,” the base said in a statement Thursday.
A second soldier who suffered minor injuries in the attack was treated and released, according to the base.
Plant’s name was initially withheld following the incident pending next-of-kin notification. A native of Saint Augustine, Florida, he joined the active-duty Army in January 2015 after a stint in the reserve component. He had previously served at Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before coming to JBER in July 2021.
“Staff Sgt. Plant was an integral part of our organization. He was a positive and dedicated leader who brought joy and energy to the paratroopers who served with him,” said Lt. Col. David J. Nelson, 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment commander, said in a statement. “He always had a smile on his face, he always went above and beyond what was asked of him, and he served as an inspiration to all who had the privilege to know him. His loss is deeply felt within our organization and we offer our sincere condolences to friends and family.”
Plant had received numerous awards and decorations during his service, including the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal and Afghanistan Campaign Medal.
The Army Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the attack, along with the 673d Security Forces Squadron, 673d Civil Engineering Squadron Conservation Law Enforcement Officers, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Following the attack, a brown bear approached the area, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Responding personnel deployed bear spray, and the animal left. A den with two brown bear cubs was found nearby, and hair collected during the initial investigation was consistent with that of a brown bear, the department said.
“From everything we know so far, based on the scene investigation and information from other responding agencies, this appears to be a defensive attack by a female bear protecting her cubs,” Cyndi Wardlow, southcentral regional supervisor for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, said in a statement Thursday. “We are trying to learn everything we can about what happened to increase public safety around wildlife in Alaska.”
The whereabouts of the bear are currently unknown. A bear involved in a fatal attack may be killed by wildlife officials, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game said.
The area of the attack is in a remote section of JBER, where the U.S. Army Alaska Command is headquartered. The area has been closed off to the public for recreation.