FORT LEWIS, Wash. – The body of Private First Class Robert Lang Wheatley, Jr., of Arcadia, Calif., was recovered from the Nisqually River June 2 by members of Thurston County’s dive team.
According to Thurston County Sheriff’s Department the body was located about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday by an unidentified individual who then called 911. Members of the dive team responded to the reported location, entered the water and recovered Pfc. Wheatley’s body. Next of kin notification was completed earlier this afternoon.
The thoughts and prayers of the entire Fort Lewis community are with the Soldier and his family, friends and loved ones. Additionally, we would like to thank the Thurston County Sheriff’s Department, Soldiers and many others who aided in the search. Pfc. Wheatley was assigned to Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 12th Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Fort Lewis, Wash.
On May 17, 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.
Thurston County Sheriff’s Department initiated a search that evening and continued until sunset. The sheriff’s department plus members of Pfc. Wheatley’s unit resumed the search along the river banks the following day at daybreak and continued the search for several days. Divers, police dogs, more than 200 Soldiers, helicopters and an airplane aided in the search until the sheriff’s office called off 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.