Umatilla airman dies in Syria

Austin Bieren

Staff Sgt. Austin Bieren, 25, of Umatilla died Tuesday while serving as an Air Force security forces airman in northern Syria.

The Department of Defense released Bieren’s name Thursday and stated that he appeared to have died from natural causes in a non-combat situation.

His mother Tracy Finck said joining the military had been her son’s plan from a young age.

“He was amazing, kind, smart, always wanted to join the service,” she wrote in a brief message to the East Oregonian.

She said he leaves behind an “amazing” wife of six years, Rachel, sister Brianne Bieren and a nephew Jaren, “who he adored,” as well as parents Tracy and Jody Finck and John and Amber Bieren. His identical twin brother, Thomas, died at age 14.

Finck said Bieren played basketball and football as a Umatilla High School student.

According to AirForce Times, Bieren is the second American serviceman known to have died in Syria. There are currently about 900 U.S. troops there providing support to Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS.

Bieren was assigned to the 21st Space Wing at Colorado’s Peterson Air Force Base.

A post by the Peterson Air Force Base’s Facebook page said Bieren “was a valuable and beloved member of our team and will be sorely missed. His dedication to his country was evident in his actions – he was a superb Airman.”

Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) led the Oregon House of Representatives in a moment of silence Thursday in honor of Bieren.

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