Area soldiers die in Iraq, Afghanistan

Two young enlisted soldiers from Joint Base Lewis-McChord - both serving their first combat deployments - died this week in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Defense announced Friday.

Sgt. Adam J. Ray, 23, who started his Army career as a hospital patient administration specialist, then went back for training as a rifleman, was killed in an enemy attack Tuesday in southern Afghanistan, the DOD reported.

Pfc. Adriana Alvarez, 20, belonged to a military police company at Lewis-McChord and died from injuries of an unexplained nature Wednesday in Baghdad, according to a separate report.

Ray was a member of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. The Louisville, Ky., native was killed when his Stryker unit was attacked with an improvised explosive, the DOD reported.

The Army didn’t say where in southern Afghanistan Ray was killed. But his battalion mates with the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment are now in Helmand province, supporting an offensive that is being billed as one of the largest of the war. The long-awaited Marjah offensive was launched Friday.

Records show that Ray enlisted in the Army in 2005. After basic training and a 12-month stint in Korea, he was assigned to Madigan Army Medical Center in February 2007. The following April, he was assigned to 5th Brigade, also at Fort Lewis. Ray then went through the infantryman qualification course at Fort Benning, Ga., before returning to his unit in October 2008 as a rifleman. His brigade deployed from Fort Lewis to Afghanistan last July.

It has now lost a reported 32 soldiers during its combat tour, all but one killed in explosions.

Alvarez, who was from San Benito, Texas, died of injuries sustained during her Iraq deployment; today’s DOD release was not more specific.

Her family told the San Antonio Express-News that her body was found Wednesday morning, and that the death was under investigation.

Alvarez enlisted in the Army in August 2008, straight out of high school. After her MP training, she reported to the 42nd Military Police Battalion at Fort Lewis in January 2009 and was assigned to the 571st Military Police Company.The company went to Iraq in August – its fourth deployment since the war began. Alvarez last spoke to her mother and three sisters on Monday, two days before she died, according to the Express-News. She had turned 20 only recently.

“That was the last time we saw her, when she came home for her birthday in November,” said Alma Alvarez, 25, the oldest of the sisters, told the Express-News. “She was just a normal teenager, 20-year-old, who had dreams and everything. Just knowing she’s not going to come back, that breaks my heart.”

Alvarez was the first death reported by the 571st MPs on this deployment. Four soldiers from the company were previously killed in Iraq, all in 2007.

Matt Misterek: 253-597-8472