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Originally published Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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ROTC cadet dies in Fort Lewis drill

The Army is investigating the death of a 19-year-old ROTC cadet during a night training exercise at Fort Lewis, Army officials said.

Seattle Times staff reporter

A 19-year-old ROTC cadet was found dead Thursday morning following a night training exercise at Fort Lewis, Army officials said.

Daniel N. Miller, of New York, disappeared about 2 a.m. while participating in a land navigation training exercise at the sprawling base, Fort Lewis and ROTC public-affairs officials said. His body was found about 9:15 a.m. Thursday in a training area on the base.

Investigators have so far found no signs of foul play, an ROTC spokesman said Friday.

"We don't have any indication to that at all," said Paul Kotakis, chief of ROTC's Public Affairs Division at Fort Monroe, Va.

Medical examiners at Madigan Army Medical Center will conduct an autopsy in hopes of determining the cause of death, Kotakis said.

Miller had been at Fort Lewis for a Leader Development and Assessment Course, a training program that sends more than 5,000 cadets through a set of drills each summer before their graduation from college.

The night land navigation exercise Miller had been performing is an individual drill, Kotakis said. Cadets, sent alone into training terrain in the dark with a map and a compass, are expected to navigate to certain points, then return, he said.

"It's a timed exercise to gauge cadets for their ability to effectively navigate terrain," said Kotakis.

Miller is a former student at Houghton College in New York state and a member of the Army ROTC unit at St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, N.Y., had been performing the drill when he disappeared, said Kotakis.

During such exercises, cadets are provided with two canteens of water and can wear a hydration pack, he said.

"I don't think temperature, at least on the surface, was an issue," Kotakis said. "The temperature was reported to be in the mid-to-low 70s at the time."

ROTC training was suspended during a search for Miller, but has since resumed, Kotakis said.

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"None of the circumstances [of Miller's death] would appear to give evidence that the way the training is being conducted is putting others at risk," he said. "Training continues and has not been modified."

Miller's death is the second at the Army base in the past two weeks. First Sgt. Kenneth D. Hawkins Jr. collapsed on June 30 after playing in a unit football game and died later at Madigan Army Medical Center. Hawkins, 42, a career soldier from Tampa, Fla., was part of the 3rd Stryker Brigade and had been assigned to Fort Lewis since 2004, a spokeswoman said.

Lewis Kamb: 206-464-2341 or lkamb@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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