Image: Ryan Longnecker
AP
This photo released by the Mississippi National Guard shows Kentucky National Guardsman Pfc. Ryan Longnecker, who went missing last Aug. 6.
updated 6/4/2008 2:51:26 PM ET 2008-06-04T18:51:26

Authorities were trying to determine Wednesday whether the remains of a soldier found in the woods of a National Guard training base are of a Kentucky guardsman who went missing before his unit deployed to Iraq.

Forrest County Coroner Butch Benedict said the remains, found Tuesday on the grounds of Camp Shelby, were in an Army uniform. Firearms were nearby. The 136,000-acre base is just south of Hattiesburg.

Lt. Col. Doril Sanders, a base spokesman, would confirm only that human remains were found on the base. He said the Army's crime lab will use DNA and dental records for identification.

Pfc. Ryan K. Longnecker, who was 19 at the time, was training at Camp Shelby when he disappeared Aug. 6, 2007, along with his military-issued 9mm pistol and M4 assault rifle.

Longnecker is currently the only soldier reported missing from Camp Shelby, Sanders said. However, neither Sanders nor Benedict could confirm if the remains belong to the missing soldier.

Benedict said "the condition of the bones would probably be consistent" with decomposition that would occur in the timeframe since Longnecker was last seen.

The remains were found between two roads and "probably a few hundred yards from a building in a secluded area," Benedict said.

After Longnecker disappeared in 2007, the military led the investigation for months, then said Longnecker was absent without ordered leave and turned the case over to the U.S. Marshals Service.

Longnecker was supposed to deploy with the Kentucky National Guard's Battery B, 2nd Battalion, 138th Field Artillery unit when he disappeared. About 160 members of Longnecker's unit and hundreds of troops from other areas were training at Camp Shelby at the time.

Col. Phil Miller, a spokesman for the Kentucky National Guard, said Wednesday that Kentucky officials are aware that remains were found but are waiting for the investigation to "provide further information to us."

The Associated Press has been unable to locate Longnecker's relatives.

Camp Shelby, which has hundreds of acres of forests and expansive training grounds, was federally mobilized in 2004 to train Guard soldiers for missions overseas. More than 50,000 National Guard troops from Alaska to Puerto Rico have passed through the facility since then.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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