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UWRF alumna killed in line of duty in Iraq

November 8, 2007

UW-River Falls lost an outgoing former member of the campus community this week.

Tracy Alger, a 2001 UWRF graduate, was killed by an improvised explosive device Nov. 1 in Shubayshen, Iraq. Alger, 30, graduated from UWRF with a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing Communications.

Alger grew up in New Auburn, Wis., and graduated from Chetek High School.

Alger was deployed to Iraq three weeks before her death, Tanya Leo, Alger’s sister, said.

“She went over there knowing full well the possibility she would be giving her life,” Leo said.

Alger decided to join the military in Jan. 2006 and had considered doing so since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.

“It was one of the highest honors she could do,” Leo said. “To serve her country and pay whatever cost. She was an outstanding person.”

Alger went through basic training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina and officer training school at Fort Benning in Georgia. She was a 2nd Lt. with the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat team, 101st Airborne Division while in Iraq. She was a platoon leader who was in charge of convoys that transported supplies.

Leo said that many of Alger’s former classmates and professors at UWRF called the family to give their condolences. It was an honor and a testament to Alger’s outgoing personality that so many people she met at UWRF called the family many years later, Leo said.

“I feel like I’m a better person for knowing her,” Todd Kirschbaum, coach of the Rodeo Club, said.

Alger was a member of the UWRF Rodeo Club and president of the Wisconsin Girls Barrel Racing Association.

“She was totally dedicated to the sport of barrel racing and improving herself and the team,” Kirschbaum said.

Kirschbaum said Alger had a lot of connections in the rodeo world and she used those connections to bring clinicians in to help improve the overall team.

“She wasn’t just trying to make her self better, she was entirely for improving the team,” he said.

The news of Alger’s death came as quite a surprise to those who knew her at UWRF.

“I was kind of shocked … It’s always someone further away, but when I saw the name I was just in shock,” Tony Jilek, former Rodeo Club advisor and animal science professor, said. “It’s no longer just a name. It’s a person.”

Alger worked as a graphic designer and nursing assistant after graduating from UWRF.

“I haven’t really followed her closely since she graduated, but she was someone with the potential to do good things,” Jilek said. “It’s still really difficult to think about still.”

Kirschbaum said he believes people will miss her enthusiasm and her smile the most.

“She was always smiling,” he said. “Somebody could be down about a bad run and she could always pick them up.”

There will be private services for family only at a later date, with burial at the Saint Mary of Czestochowa Cemetary in Stanley, Wis, according to The Chetek Alert.

She is survived by her mother, Pauline Knutson of New Auburn; one sister, Tanya (Chris) Leo of Colorado Springs, Colo.; maternal grandmother, Bernice Symbal of Stanley; special friend, Rick Hawkins from Indianapolis, Ind.

A visitation for Alger will be held Nov. 9 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Olson Funeral Home in Bloomer, Wis.

Sarah Packingham also contributed to this story.