The Unreported Death of Staff Sgt. Paula Loyd of the Human Terrain System: Third Researcher to Die

Paula Loyd, June, 2006
Paula Loyd, June, 2006

Nowhere has the apparent death of Paula Loyd been officially reported, nor is there any apparent notice of her passing or of a funeral notice posted in any paper that is also on the Web. In addition, the website of the Human Terrain System does not have an entry for her under its “In Memoriam” tab.

Paula Loyd was a member of a Human Terrain Team in Afghanistan when she was doused with petrol and set alight by an Afghan on November 4, 2008. Her attacker was executed while detained, and she was flown back to Texas for treatment. Previous posts about Loyd on this blog, including a video, are here and here, with additional discussion here and here. This makes her the third researcher to have did while employed with the Human Terrain System.

In recent days, despite the discussion of Gaza taking place on this blog, there has been a large spike in the number of visitors searching this blog for Paula Loyd, as well as new comments on a story several weeks old. Many of the visitors seem to be clicking links in email messages, which to me suggested that the link to one of the posts was being circulated. This motivated me to find out what the possible reason was for what seemed to be an attempt to distract, or perhaps a coordinated attempt to counteract the positions taken on this blog — mere speculation of course. As I searched for possible reasons for the recent renewal of interest, by chance I was led to what is news that at first appeared to be a month old.

[Update: anonymous comments on another site state that Paula Loyd died yesterday, January 7, 2009, which might explain the increased interest in her story. Another comment says her death happened on January 6.]

Quite by accident, through Twitter, I found a rather romantic article in a San Antonio site, to which the following comment was posted:

Kelly Loyd:
Paula was my aunt and we loved her very much, unfortunately she passed away this morning after an incredible battle for her life. She and her life will hopefully serve as an inspiration to others. She spent her life helping people. In know that sounds ironic to say about a military woman, but her goal in the military was to rebuild, both lives and services. She loved her job and her family and her country and, in the end, sacrificed her life for it. She is truly one of many American heroes and I loved and respected her greatly.

Why was her death not reported by the media? Why does even the HTS website not mention her death? Or is this almost invisible announcement a hoax? If a hoax, it would be a rather twisted mind that produced it, and I am inclined to believe that the source is instead genuine. I can also appreciate that for matters of privacy the family would want to keep news of her funeral private. That does not explain HTS not acknowledging her death.

[Update: since this blog broke the story first, it is now being picked up by others, and the news has not been contradicted by any source.]


Following the report’s appearance on this blog, Wired’s Danger Room picked up the story and seems to have confirmed its veracity by speaking to HTS employees. In addition, another anonymous commenter claiming to be a family member of Loyd’s is confirming her death in a comment below.

UPDATE #2: “Contractor dies from Afghanistan burn injuries,” By Matthew Barakat – The Associated Press – Posted : Friday Jan 9, 2009 13:15:17 EST – in Army Times (thanks for the notice from a commenter below).

UPDATE #3: More on the now reported death of Paula Loyd:

BAE Systems Statement Regarding the Death of an Employee, Friday, January 9, 2009.


So this brings me back to “Keltorttruth”, posting here, here, and here, between January 6 and yesterday, January 7: what a coincidence that you should be engaging me in debate about Loyd just on those particular days, and at the same time you and/or other anonymous commenters were announcing her death on more sympathetic blogs. What were you hoping to set up? I am assuming that only family, close friends, and people in the military would have been privy to knowledge of her death. Which one are you? Silence.


20 thoughts on “The Unreported Death of Staff Sgt. Paula Loyd of the Human Terrain System: Third Researcher to Die

  1. Anonymous

    This was not a hoax, as hinted at in your article. As a member of her family I can confirm that Paula has in fact passed away. She died on January 7, 2009 at 2PM CST at Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX. The family is asking for some privacy at this time, which we hope will be respected.
    Thank you.

  2. Maximilian Forte

    I did not hint that it was a hoax, I asked whether it was since it was widely unreported except for anonymous comments such as your own. Otherwise, I very much doubt that anyone, let alone myself, is going to do anything to violate her family’s privacy. I know that some choose to twist my words so that they mean what they want (in this case, a question of possibility interpreted as a statement of certainty, as if one were prohibited from thinking and asked to take everything at face value). I hope that this much should be clear, but I doubt it.

  3. Maximilian Forte

    The other point is not to use her death as bait for playing ideological war games against opponents online, as has in fact been the case here already.

    You forgot to mention that part, “Anonymous.”

  4. Everyone Is Anonymous

    It’s interesting that this story had to come out on your blog first and not in the mainline media. That tells me this is one more attempt to hide the death of Americans in war from the public. Not only that, I was reading today some of the first reports about this Lloyd incident and there was a line about HTS promising a report on this. I just looked at their site (thanks for the link) and there is no report about it and they still have nothing about Loyd. the idea that this out of respect for the “privacy” of the family is total bullshit. Unless the family is hanging around blogs all day this won’t intrude on them, unless they have some idiot in the family rushing up to them with the latest printout from what the blogs are saying! If they are going to start hiding the number of HTS dead, then that’s a pretty disturbing new phase in their propganda. Thanks for reporting on this.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks “Everyone,” I had not thought about that angle, that is, the possible motivations for letting this slip past the notice of the media as a way of artificially diminishing the number of war dead. Given that Loyd’s own family members were themselves the ones to post these announcements on different sites, I also have to wonder why they chose not to inform more mainstream media, and if they were asked not to. The privacy claim does not work for me either.

  5. Iraq Vet

    Two things I noticed at Danger Room. One, they take credit for a story that apparently you broke hours ahead of them. Two, this huge grief and anger about Loyd’s death.

    No offense to her memory but I speak as someone who knows a thing or two about war, suffering, and loss. We know what we could be in for when we sign up. Loyd must have known the risks. This shit happens all the time there is no actual surprise here but I gues when it finally happens to one of us people stop thinking.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks for your visit and comment.

      I am not sure if DR was looking at the same sources at the same time, for the same reasons, it’s possible. Otherwise yes, they only credit this blog for the photo they use, and not for being the only blog that produced the story, and did so it seems several hours before they did as you noticed (and thanks for noticing). On the other hand, I have criticized both DR and Schacthman in particular, and used their stuff whenever I wanted, that I don’t see any imbalance in the end, or any reason why they would feel especially warm (or professional) about crediting me.

      The second part is the really important one. It brought back to mind that “emotional contagion” is experienced by the dominant and by the occupiers as well. More than that, I cannot recall any serious treatment of imperialism as an emotional experience, looking at the emotional structure of imperialism. Anthropologists might be very well positioned to look at this more closely. In the process we can generate our own Minerva Research Initiative in reverse, that is, by studying imperialist emotional contagion, and developing countermeasures to counter its spread.

      What a lovely thought: this blog as a countermeasure against imperial contagion. It deserves to become my new slogan.

      I am hoping that the email address you entered in order to post the comment, is a valid one. With your permission, I would like to correspond in private.

  6. HTS Doe

    Her death is not listed on the HTS Web site because the current HTS IT department lacks the expertise and military accreditation to edit the site, as it resides on a military domain. Dr. McFate requested that the site be updated when Paula was first injured, however, the site’s Web Administrator, the former S6 and a member of the Army, had just completed his mobilization tour at Ft. Leavenworth. The remaining IT staff at Ft. Leavenworth (contractors) did not possess the skills required to edit the web site. They also did not have the required military credentials to maintain a Department of Defense web site. I assume that this is still the case as the site has not been updated since October 6, 2008, when the S6 demobilized. The site is technically broke; the menu bar at the top of the page is supposed to contain white text that displays a blue text drop down menu when the user places their curser over the word, however, it’s all blue now, aesthetically very unappealing and difficult to read. I can only surmise that it has not been fixed, nor updated, due to the aforementioned short comings of the HTS IT department. These shortcomings would also explain why the development of the new MAP-HT package has been completely outsourced to Overwatch. As is the case with the normal hiring practices for the HTS staff; it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, or who you’re related to, that gets you a job within the HTS Program.

    The end result is clear and quite simple to see, especially in the IT department; a group of inept, incompetent, self-serving contractors who’s only desire is to promote their personal agenda. This single fact is the reason that the HTS program, no matter how noble, will ultimately fail.

  7. Maximilian Forte

    Thanks for your note HTS Doe.

    Well, at least this lays to rest any thoughts some of us were having that it might have been deliberate, to somehow smother the reality of researchers being killed on duty, or to minimize the reported numbers.

    On the other hand, what you report will still not cheer those who support the program, not if HTS can’t even edit a website, it’s amazing.

    Thanks again.

  8. No more lies

    Why say the attacker was executed while detained ? Fact is the attacker was murdered in cold blood and the killer awaits justice.

  9. Randy Hampton

    The announcement Paula Loyd passed away was in today’s Army Times 9 January). Those who have a sincere desire to help others and who are sacrificed for their dedication will be missed from this earth.

    To the family of Paula, my sincere condolences.

    Randy Hampton
    LTC (R), US Army

    1st Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) initiative/Gardez, Paktia Province/2003

  10. Anonymous

    Max (if i may call you that)….in my statement earlier regarding a possible hoax statement I did not intend to imply that YOU were saying that it was, and I apologize if I made it sound that way. Secondly at the end of your comment, yes, your point was very clear – yet through experience I’ve learned that not everyone pays as much attention as they should when reading blogs such as this, and with such emotion running, I felt as if I had to go on the “defensive” – perhaps wrongly so I admit, but I did not want anyone reading too quickly, and getting the wrong idea, then starting spreading rumors.
    You seem very intelligent and I trust you understand where I’m coming from, although perhaps I should have been more clear, indeed.
    At this point the story has been broken to the broader media, and most people have heard it. As for why it was broken here first and not broader, I can only say that it was planned to happen the way it did, and that I was NOT supposed to do what I did by breaking it here earlier. I took that upon myself and it was NOT the whole of the families wishes to do so. That being said, after I had seen it fleetingly in another blog while surfing, I though I should make a small comment to set the record straight, and I chose here to do it, on my own. The majority of the family was concerned with greater things then the web, I assure you. There is no conspiracy here, and no wider movement to suppress the truth or the number of dead, or any of that, as was speculated by some.
    Lastly, on the order of politics, there was no intent on ANYONE to hide this news, as some have also hinted, it was merely at the request of the family that it was delayed, so that all family members could be notified before the story broke. If anyone doean’t understand that, there’s nothing more that I can say.
    PS. I refuse to get into the politics of this publicly, as my emotions may play a broader part then my (smarter) brain at this time.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks very much Anonymous, you make yourself understood. I confess that I did not think of the fact that family members can be widely dispersed and would not be happy to hear the news first in the media before they heard it from family. Between your message and a previous one, I think you have laid to rest any notion that there was some other, ulterior motive, beyond family concerns, for not broadcasting this news.

      It seems however that some others must have known as well, not family members, who rushed here to try and start some campaign. On the other hand, had they not done so, I never would have been motivated to go searching in the way that first brought this story to light.

      Thanks for visiting at this time and taking the time to share your comments.

  11. Tom

    I came to this site after the death of Paula Lloyd was reported in a Wapo piece about a bomb killing 3 U.S. soldiiers in Afghanistan. Her name was mentioned 8 paragraphs down. I did an additional web search on her name since I didn’t recall ever hearing anything about this story, which I thought surprising.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Hello Tom,

      there was a bit more beyond the initial news back in November, but not much, and most of it had to do with Don Ayala. Thanks also for the link to the Post article.

  12. Highball Valentine

    Looks like Abdul Salam got a “fair” trial, Dodge City style. What more can you say? In a corrupt society this kind of “justice” always punishes the guilty. My heart goes out to the Loyd family.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      No problem, just as long as you realize that if you switch Loyd and Salam, the statement still works. I don’t think there was one victim here, and Salam got murdered in his own country by foreign occupiers. Try, just as an experiment, to see things from that angle for a moment.

  13. No more lies

    Max , its refreshing and gives me hope for America that some can still see common sense.
    Of course we are all saddened by any Americans death overseas in an area of conflict but its very much a two way street.
    The USA can not occupy a hostile country and not expect casualties.Any death is one too many , mudering Salam solved nothing dodge city style or not.All its accomplished is earned an American prison time at best.
    Some would say perhaps the murderer is fortunate not to be handed over to Afghani authorities.

    1. Maximilian Forte

      Thanks again very much “No more lies.” It would be good news if HTS suffers no more deaths, and I think they will miss Loyd sorely — she had a very strong background, not just academically and in anthropology, but in terms of a wide range of work experiences overseas, in the military, in aid agencies, working with refugees, working with the UN, and in Afghanistan for years, kind of a unique combination that doesn’t come by frequently. It is a sickening story from every angle.

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