Air Force major dies after hit by pickup during Interior Alaska cycling trip

Maj. Michael Gentry, 354th Contracting Squadron commander, is shown in his official military photo. Gentry graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 2007 and served in both overseas and deployed locations before he assumed command of the 354th CONS in June 2018. He died in a cycling accident on Aug. 1, 2020. (Photo from Eielson Air Force Base)

A 37-year-old squadron commander stationed at Eielson Air Force Base died Saturday after he was struck by a pickup truck while cycling in Interior Alaska, according to officials.

Maj. Michael “Cal” Gentry was hit around 6 a.m. near milepost 125 of the Steese Highway, just west of Central, said Alaska State Troopers. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Gentry was commander of Eielson’s 354th Contracting Squadron.

“Our entire team is heartbroken at the loss of Cal Gentry to this tragic accident,” said a statement from Col. Shawn Anger, 354th Fighter Wing commander. “He loved anything and everything outdoors and there is at least a little solace knowing Cal died doing something he loved.”

According to Alaska State Troopers, the person driving the pickup Saturday was traveling with Gentry and another airman, 39-year-old Jay Butler. The group was cycling from the Fairbanks area to Circle, said Eielson officials.

“They were taking turns riding bicycles and driving the support vehicle, a 2015 Dodge Ram truck,” troopers said in an online report. “The driver inadvertently struck Butler and Gentry as he was following them on the Steese Hwy.”

Butler was flown to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Troopers say they’re withholding the name of the driver while their investigation continues. The agency is working with Eielson officials on the case.