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Alcohol abuse reportedly played a part in the Christmas Day death of a soldier at Larson Barracks in Kitzingen, Germany.

While authorities said Wednesday that 19-year-old Pfc. John M. Steenge’s cause of death is still under investigation, a safety alert sent out by the U.S. Army Europe commander, Gen. David McKiernan, on Dec. 29 alludes to the Christmas Day death of a soldier found in his barracks room.

“He and several of his battle buddies had celebrated their return to Germany by drinking alcohol on Christmas Eve,” McKiernan wrote in his message to the troops. “Although the case is still under investigation, the soldier appears to have died from excessive alcohol consumption.”

USAREUR spokesman Bruce Anderson would not confirm Steenge as the soldier referenced in the alert, but said it was “fair to say” that no other soldiers died in their barracks on that day. Steenge was found in his room at about 2 p.m.

Anderson said the safety alerts sent out by the USAREUR commander generally don’t reveal the names or units that might have spurred the alert.

“We don’t talk about who specifically the McKiernan Sends are about,” Anderson said. “It’s a training tool and it’s supposed to apply to everybody.”

Steenge had returned from a yearlong deployment to Iraq with the 17th Signal Battalion two days before his death, said Capt. Nicole Rabold, the battalion’s rear detachment commander.

He was involved in the USAREUR reintegration process for all returning soldiers, and would have started immediately on seven days’ worth of readjustment training, said 1st Lt. Clare Martinez, spokeswoman for the 22nd Signal Brigade, Steenge’s assigned unit.

The reintegration model includes half-day sessions on readjusting to life outside the war zone. Reuniting with family, medical necessities and alcohol use are all covered in the classes. It was not clear if Steenge had received any of the alcohol safety information, or when it is presented over the week.

A Stripes request to interview a reintegration specialist was not granted by deadline.

Reintegration training helps soldiers better acclimate to the stark contrasts of living in Germany instead of fighting in Iraq, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwöhr reintegration plan specialist Henry McNair said during training in December.

“We talk about alcohol,” McNair said. “Beer is a big thing in Germany, but there was no alcohol for them at all in Iraq.”


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