Air Force major dies after being hit by truck during Alaska cycling trip
By WYATT OLSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 3, 2020
An Air Force squadron commander died Saturday after the bicycle he was riding was hit by a truck northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.
Maj. Michael “Cal” Gentry, commander of the 354th Contracting Squadron at Eielson Air Force Base, died at the scene on Steese Highway, the Air Force said in a statement Monday.
The 37-year-old was on a 155-mile cycling trip from Fairbanks to Circle, the statement said. He was roughly 30 miles from his destination. Two other airmen were involved in the accident, but the Air Force did not identify them.
According to information released Monday by the Alaska State Troopers, the three airmen were traveling as a group, two on bikes while the third was driving a pickup truck in support of the trek. They were taking turns driving and biking.
The driver of the pickup “inadvertently struck” Gentry and Jay M. Butler, 39, near the town of Central at about 6 a.m.
Emergency medical personnel from U.S. Army Alaska’s 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright airlifted Gentry and Butler to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Butler, who is also stationed at Eielson, was treated and released with minor injuries.
Alaska State Troopers is withholding the identity of the airman who was driving until an investigation is completed.
“Our entire team is heartbroken at the loss of Cal Gentry to this tragic accident,” Col. Shawn Anger, 354th Fighter Wing commander, said in the Air Force statement. “He loved anything and everything outdoors and there is at least a little solace knowing Cal died doing something he loved.”
Anger described Gentry as “an incredible leader in our wing” and “one of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever had the privilege to serve alongside.”
“He was an athlete, academic, innovator, go-getter, you name it — he could do it,” Anger said. “On top of all of his talent, he was a devoted family man.”
Gentry is survived by his mother, wife and two sons.
He graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2007 and had assumed command of the contracting squadron in June 2018. He had served in both overseas and deployed locations as a career contracting officer.
His decorations include the Air Force Achievement medal, the Air Force Commendation medal with one Oak Leaf cluster, the Joint Service commendation medal with one Oak Leaf cluster, and the Meritorious Service Medal with one Oak Leaf cluster, the statement said.