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Anchorage police identify body found on trail as missing JBER airman

Laurel Andrews
22-year-old JBER airman Tanner Volkers, left, was last seen Saturday, Dec. 7, and Anchorage police have asked for the public's help in locating him. Courtesy Melissa Volkers

Update, Wednesday, 12:40 p.m.: Anchorage police confirmed Wednesday that the body of a deceased male found Tuesday afternoon was missing person Tanner Volkers. His next of kin have been notified, Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Castro wrote. Police have found no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

Update, Tuesday: Anchorage police reported late Tuesday afternoon that the body of a deceased male was found by search teams on the Basher Trail in East Anchorage. Police have not yet positively identified the man, Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Castro wrote.

Original Story: Anchorage police are asking for the public’s help in locating 22-year-old Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Airman Tanner Volkers, last seen Saturday evening in East Anchorage.

Volkers was last seen by his roommate on Dec. 7, APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro said. He had been at home when he reportedly took some of his belongings and left by himself. Volkers has some health concerns, Castro said, but she could not identify the nature of the concerns. Police haven’t found anything suspicious concerning his disappearance at this time, she said.

Volkers frequents various trails in the Anchorage area, including Arctic Valley, those around the Eagle River Nature Center, Thunderbird Falls and popular Flattop Mountain, police wrote.

His black 2011 Dodge Ram pickup was found Tuesday afternoon at the Basher Trailhead down Campbell Airstrip Road in East Anchorage, Castro confirmed on Tuesday, but Volkers was still missing. Search teams were working in the area, police reported. Police identify Volkers as a 5-foot-10 white male weighing 150 pounds, with brown eyes and brown hair.

Volkers’ official title is a 673rd civil engineer group firefighter, said Captain Angela Webb, 673rd airbase wing public affairs officer. Volkers has been stationed in Alaska since January 2010.

His mother Melissa Weller-Volkers described him as “the best kid ever."

"He just loved life," she said.

Tanner knew from a young age that he wanted to serve in the military.

“He wanted to protect his country and his family and friends; he wanted to serve,” his mother said.

Weller-Volkers spoke with Tanner on Saturday afternoon. When she texted him around 4:15 on Saturday, and he didn't reply, she knew something was wrong, she said.

When he didn’t go to work on Sunday, her suspicions grew. “It doesn’t make sense, and I knew when he didn’t show up on Sunday it was bad,” she said. His phone was either turned off or dead on Sunday.

"This isn't like him," she said.

Melissa said they received a package in the mail from Tanner on Monday with Christmas gifts for the family -- a hard reminder of her now-missing son.

Tanner's father, Gary Volkers, was en route to Anchorage on Tuesday, where he’ll be met by military officials and the Anchorage Police Department, Melissa said.

“I’m just glad that my husband’s going to be there,” she said.

Tanner has an 18-year-old brother and an 8-year-old sister.

Volker’s Facebook page says that he is from Nampa, Idaho, and is working as a Fire Protection Supervisor, EMT III and Rescue Technician.

He graduated from Vallivue High School in 2009, and graduated from Louis F. Garland Fire Academy in San Angelo, Texas, the same year, his Facebook page says. He worked for the Middleton Rural Fire District in Middleton, Idaho, in 2009. He reportedly moved to Anchorage in January of 2010.

Family members posted messages asking for help on his Facebook page, and shared additional images of Volkers

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter @Laurel_Andrews