Soldier from Palmer in Iraq roadside blast

Army sergeant is second Alaska GI to be killed in a week

Posted: Wednesday, September 14, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Army Sgt. Kurtis Arcala had joined the military in hopes of paying his way through college and becoming a teacher.

Arcala enlisted on Sept. 1, 2001, for the military's job training, education benefits and "to do something with his life," said his sister, Aurora Berberich. "And then 9/11 broke out."

Arcala, 22, died Sunday after his convoy hit a roadside bomb in Balad, Iraq, his family said. He was the second soldier from Alaska to die in Iraq in the last week.

He was assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Ga., his family said.

Arcala was about a week away from finishing his second tour of duty in Iraq, his friend and former high school basketball coach, Brandon Blake, said Monday.

He had just re-enlisted in the Army, his family said.

Arcala's uncle, Don Berberich, said the decision was somewhat surprising, knowing his nephew had the goal of going to school and someday being a teacher.

"If he thought he was needed there, his expertise and skill, if he felt they were needed there, he would sacrifice that goal to help out," he said.

Don Berberich, 43, who was also Arcala's soccer coach, said Arcala's original plan was to serve four years in the Army and get out, he said. His sister said his goal was to become a physical education teacher.

Arcala was a leader on the Palmer High soccer team, where he played midfield center, the captain's spot.

"I don't know if it was charisma that made people follow him, but he was really good," Don Berberich said Monday. "He had this professionalism about him, he was poised on the field; he was cool on the field." Arcala also managed to keep his grade-point average between 3.1 and 4.0, Berberich said.

Arcala was born in Hawaii but had lived in Palmer since he was 9 months old, his mother said.

He is survived by his parents, Angela and John Berberich, two sisters and a brother.

Another Alaska soldier in the 3rd Infantry Division, Matthew Bohling, 22, of Eagle River, was to be buried this week at Fort Richardson National Cemetery. Bohling was killed Sept. 5, by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

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