The Iowa National Guard regrets to announce the death of Pfc. Matthew A. Cox, 19, of Leon, Iowa. Cox died while swimming at a Naval Station Guantanamo Bay (NSGB) beach Tuesday, Oct. 16.


Cox, a member of the 186th Military Police Company, Iowa Army National Guard based at Camp Dodge, Johnston, Iowa, was deployed to Cuba in support of Joint Task Force-Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) at the time of his death.


Cox and four other service members were swimming at Cable Beach when he was overpowered by the strong current. NSGB dispatched first responders to the scene to begin search and rescue operations using divers, boats and aircraft. This operation continued until the afternoon of Oct. 17, when searchers recovered his body. The four service members with Cox at the time of his death were not injured.


The search and recovery operation was a joint effort involving members of all military services including the U.S. Coast Guard, fire, law enforcement and medical first responders from NSGB, Naval Hospital Guantanamo Bay and JTF-GTMO. An investigation is underway into the incident.


“This is indeed a sad day for the Iowa National Guard. The loss of a Soldier under any circumstances is difficult. My heart aches for Matthew’s family as well as the Soldiers he served with in the 186th MP Company,” said Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, the Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cox family and his fellow Soldiers. We will do everything in our power to assist them during this difficult time.”


Cox was born in Des Moines, Iowa on July 28, 1999. He was homeschooled completing his studies in May of 2017. Cox was active in the Civil Air Patrol, Des Moines Police Explores and enjoyed farming with his grandparents, Fred and Linda Cox, near Leon, Iowa. He was a member of the 1st Baptist Church in Urbandale, where he was involved in the children’s ministries.


Cox enlisted in the Iowa Army National Guard on Oct. 11, 2017 as a Military Police Soldier with the 186th MP Co. He attended Military Police One Station Unit Training graduating on June 7, 2018. He deployed to Cuba in July, 2018. His awards include the National Defense Service Medal and the Army Service Ribbon.


Cox is survived by his parents, Jason and Beth Cox, and brother, Mark Cox, all of Hartford, Iowa.


Funeral arrangements are pending.