Fort Bragg Special Forces soldier dies in training exercise off Fla. coast
By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: November 5, 2016
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C.(Tribune News Service) — A Special Forces soldier training at Fort Bragg's John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School has died during a training exercise off the coast of Florida, according to U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Staff Sgt. David J. Whitcher, 30, of Bradford, New Hampshire, died near Key West, Florida, on Nov. 2, officials said. The cause of death is under investigation.
Whitcher, who was assigned to the Special Warfare Center and School's Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group, was a student in the Combat Diver Qualification Course.
The Special Warfare Center and School trains Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations soldiers. It is based at Fort Bragg, but also has courses based in Yuma, Arizona, and Key West, Florida.
Before coming to the school, Whitcher served with Company C, 2nd Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.
The commander of 7th Group, Col. Michael A. Ball, said the unit's primary focus was the care for Whitcher's loved ones.
"As always, we will take care of our own and help his family in their time of need," Ball said in a release.
Whitcher was trained as a Special Forces engineer sergeant. His military career began with the New Hampshire National Guard in 2008, with whom he deployed twice to Afghanistan.
In 2013, Whitcher came onto active duty and served with an engineer brigade at Fort Richardson, Alaska, before volunteering for Special Forces training in 2014. He graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg in 2016.
Maj. Gen. James B. Linder, commander of the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, said thoughts and prayers were with Whitcher's family and friends.
"The special operations community is a close-knit family," Linder said in a release. "At the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, we consider every student who enters our institution to be part of our SWCS family. Staff Sgt. Whitcher's death is a sobering reminder of the dangerous training our soldiers undertake to prepare themselves for the rigors of Special Forces."
Whitcher's awards and decorations included three Army Commendation Medals, four Army Achievement Medals, a Valorous Unit Award, a Meritorious Unit Commendation and Good Conduct Medal, among others.
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