A Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldier died Saturday in Afghanistan, the 36th and likely last reported fatality from the local base in 2012.
Pfc. Markie T. Sims, 20, of Citra, Fla., died in southern Afghanistan in a blast from an improvised explosive device, the Pentagon announced Monday.
Sims, a combat engineer with the 38th Engineer Company, enlisted in the Army in November 2011. This was his first deployment.
He was assigned to the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, which deployed to Afghanistan in November to replace another Lewis-McChord-based Stryker brigade. Sims is the unit’s third fatality of the deployment. The brigade is due home in August.
Sims ran track and played basketball in high school and graduated from Marion Technical Institute in Ocala, Fla., before enlisting.
His mother, Wanda Thompson, told the Star-Banner newspaper that her son informed the family shortly after graduation that he was joining the military.
“I didn’t want him to go,” she told the newspaper, “because of the stuff that happens there.”
In October, Sims married his wife, Shakeli. She is pregnant with Sims’ child, his family said.
Sims’ brother Demarrio was slated to report for basic training Sunday, his brother’s birthday, but his training date has been pushed back.
“But that’s one of the reasons I’m joining, because of him,” Demarrio told the Star-Banner. “That’s what’s going to motivate me to get through basic training.”
The year 2012 was the deadliest for Lewis-McChord soldiers since 2009, the last time all three Stryker brigades based at Lewis-McChord went overseas in the same year.
The base’s deadliest year came in 2007, during the height of the “surge” in Iraq, when 92 of its soldiers lost their lives.
The death toll is certain to come down in 2013. The 4th Brigade’s tour is expected to be the last major deployment for a Lewis-McChord Stryker brigade in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The soldiers of the 3rd Brigade are home and will celebrate their official homecoming in February, around the time their peers from the 2nd Brigade are welcomed back by families.
Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, the commanding general of Lewis-McChord and I Corps, said the base’s focus will shift to the Pacific Rim as the U.S. military winds down more than a decade of war in the Middle East. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said the U.S. will end combat operations in Afghanistan this year, preceding the full exit of troops in 2014.