At approximately 6 p.m. Sunday Pfc. Wheatley and eight other soldiers and one child were on a white water rafting trip on the Nisqually River, in Thurston County, when the three rafts were caught in a fast river current and hit logs jammed in the river. All three rafts were capsized; everyone made it to the river embankment except Pfc. Wheatley, who currently is still missing.
Thurston County Sherriff’s Department initiated a search Sunday evening and continued until sunset. The sheriff’s department plus members of Pfc. Wheatley’s unit resumed the search along the river banks Monday at daybreak and have continued the search since then. Divers, police dogs, more than 200 Soldiers, helicopters and an airplane have aided in the search.
The thoughts and prayers of the entire Fort Lewis community are with the Soldier and his family, friends and loved ones as we work to determine his whereabouts. Additionally, we would like to thank the Thurston County Sherriff’s Department, Soldiers and many others who have aided in the search.
Additional information: Pfc. Wheatley joined the Army in January 2005 and reported to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for initial Army training and advanced training as a cannon crewmember. Upon completion of his training, he reported to Fort Lewis May 31, 2005, and was assigned to 2-12 Field Artillery, 4/2 SBCT where he served as a cannon crewmember (MOS 13B). He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from April 2007-June 2008.
His civilian and military education includes a high school diploma (2003), the military occupational specialty 13B – Cannon Crewmember – qualification course (2005). His awards and decorations include the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Iraq Campaign Medal-CS, and Combat Action Badge.
Additional information will be released by the Fort Lewis public affairs office as it becomes releasable.