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1 US airman dead, 1 sailor in critical condition in Japan

The guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur departs Yokosuka Naval Base. (GARRETT ZOPFI/U.S. NAVY)
December 28, 2023

A United States airman died at the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, and a U.S. sailor was critically injured on the USS Ralph Johnson in a pair of unrelated incidents that occurred in Japan over Christmas.

1st Lt. Alvin Nelson told Stars and Stripes Thursday that 20-year-old Airman 1st Class Isabella M. Garcia, who was stationed at the Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, died on Monday.

Nelson did not disclose any additional details regarding the death of Garcia to Stars and Stripes. In an email statement, Nelson explained, “Details surrounding the incident are under investigation.”

“We are deeply saddened at the loss of Airman First Class Garcia,” 18th Wing Commander Col. Nicholas Evans said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. “We are focused on supporting her family, coworkers and other individuals impacted by this tragedy. We encourage all members of Team Kadena to continue to look after one another over this holiday season and to reach out to our team of professional helping agencies if you are in need.”

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In addition to the death of Garcia, a 7th Fleet spokesperson told Stars and Stripes that an unidentified sailor on the USS Ralph Johnson, a guided-missile destroyer at Yokosuka Naval Base, was injured on Sunday. The 7th Fleet spokeswoman noted that the injury was caused by a shooting incident.

Lt. Kristina Wiedemann told Stars and Stripes that the unidentified sailor was listed in critical condition at a Japanese hospital on Thursday. Wiedemann added that no other information was currently available regarding the incident.

The Christmas incidents involving Garcia and the unidentified USS Ralph Johnson sailor add to the growing list of recent tragedies involving U.S. service members in Japan. Earlier this month, the Department of Defense announced that eight service members had been killed in a CV-22A Osprey crash near Yakushima Island, Japan.

At the time of the Osprey crash incident, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “I am deeply saddened by the loss of eight American troops in a tragic aircraft crash off the coast of Japan. The entire Department of Defense mourns alongside the families and the loved ones of those who lost their lives today in the service of their country. My heart also goes out to those who were serving alongside these brave men and women in Japan.”