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A Twin Cities man serving in the Army fell to his death during a hiking expedition with fellow soldiers in the mountains of Alaska, according to military officials and his family.

Kyle Lee Gustafson, 34, of Fridley, a police brigade soldier attached to the 11th Airborne Division, was on a hike Sept. 2 along the Turnagain Arm south of Anchorage, the military reported. An arm is a narrow extension of water, or an inlet, flowing out from a much larger body of water.

Searchers recovered Gustafson, who was airlifted to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he died, the release continued.

Gustafson joined the Army in December 2020 and was last serving as an explosive ordnance disposal specialist with 716th Ordnance Company in Hawaii. He arrived in Alaska in May.

Timothy Gustafson said Monday that his son was with four other soldiers who "lived to go hiking. It sounds like they were given five peaks and a time frame to reach the peaks of all of these mountains. On the fourth one, apparently Kyle slipped."

The father said the five were told that if they completed the challenge, they would receive four days off in October.

Kyle Gustafson first served in the Marines for four years and saw action in Afghanistan before his honorable discharge in 2011, Timothy Gustafson said.

From there, he was hired by the U.S. Postal Service and delivered mail for four years out of the Eastside Station in Minneapolis, the father said. He took a six-month break to fight wildfires out West and returned to the Postal Service.

Timothy Gustafson said his son would do his mail route while on leave, including when he was home this past Christmas, when the weather was especially cold.

He recalled his son as saying that "'everybody needs their mail'" and added that Kyle would run up the hills to houses when the mail truck couldn't make it.

His sister, Angela Gustafson, said Kyle "loved volunteering at the cat shelters off the Army bases in Florida and in Alaska. It was his own therapy. The boy was quiet, but his actions were loud and loving. ... He hated seeing people feel left out."

Kyle Gustafson received his entire education in the Fridley School District and was on the wrestling, swim and track teams in high school.

"Kyle was a very strong man," his father said, "and believed in everything he did."