The Cable

Five Soldiers Dead, Four Missing in Latest Military Training Accident

More and more troops are dying during training, and a Congressman wants to know why

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Four U.S. Army soldiers remain missing Friday in a deadly flash flood accident that killed five other troops on Fort Hood, Texas, the deadliest non-combat Army vehicle accident in recent years.

A group of 12 soldiers were training in low-lying area Thursday that hadn’t been hit by flooding in the past, Fort Hood spokesman Chris Haug said during a press conference Friday. “It was a situation where the rain had come, the water was rising quickly and we were in the process, at the moment of the event, of closing the roads,” Haug said. The soldiers’ truck was overturned by the rushing waters.

Other soldiers in a truck following the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle pulled three rescued troops from the water. They remain in stable condition at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center on Fort Hood. All the soldiers belong to 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

The accident follows a series of deadly training accidents across the armed services in recent months. The worst came in January, when 12 Marines were killed after two helicopters collided during a nighttime training mission off the coast of Hawaii.

House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said in a statement Friday that the recent accidents — including this week’s crashes of an Air Force Thunderbird in Colorado and a Navy Blue Angels aircraft, which killed Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss — are cause for concern.

“We don’t yet know all the details of these incidents, but they are the latest in an alarming increase of significant military accidents,” he said. “Those who have died and their families deserve a full, objective, complete look at the circumstances and any deeper causes that should be addressed.”

Speaking in Singapore, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Friday that week’s accidents were the result of “safety issues in training.”

“We are going to make sure that we learn lessons,” Carter said of the accidents.

Military leaders have been warning of grave consequences for cutting training and readiness accounts since the adoption of mandatory budget cuts brought on by the 2011 Budget Control Act, otherwise known as sequestration.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told a House Armed Services Committee panel in March that the Hawaii crash was partly due to training shortfalls. “When you don’t have enough aircraft to fly, then your flight hours go down and it becomes difficult to maintain your currency,” Neller said.

“We are fiscally stretched to maintain readiness across the depth of the force,” he continued, and “aviation units are currently unable to meet our training and mission requirements.”

Last month, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Daniel Allyn said his service is “still recovering from the effects of the 2013-14 sequestration experience.” That’s when the Army’s readiness and training budgets were hit the hardest and the Army, he said, is struggling to “address our readiness and modernization shortfalls.”

Photo Credit: Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

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