Soldier killed, 7 hurt in training exercise on Fort Bragg

By MARTHA QUILLIN | The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer | Published: February 21, 2014

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — A training incident that killed one paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne Division and wounded seven others early Friday morning involved a howitzer in a live-fire exercise, according to the Army.

Two of the wounded soldiers were seriously injured, and five suffered minor injuries, said Capt. Douglas Ray, a spokesman for the 82nd. Friday night, one remained at Womack Army Medical Center on post and one was in Duke University Medical Center.

The families of the soldiers have all been notified, but the Army has not released their names or described the nature of their injuries.

It’s at least the second live-fire incident in which troops were injured during training at Fort Bragg in three years.

At a press conference, Ray read from a statement and said he could not take questions because the incident is under investigation by the 82nd, the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command and the Army Readiness/Safety Center.

Ray said the incident occurred during an exercise of the 18th Fires Brigade, an Airborne field artillery unit, that involved an M777 light towed howitzer.

Two medics were on site when the incident happened, Ray said, and provided care to the injured. All eight were taken to Womack, where one soldier was pronounced dead.

In a statement, Col. Stephen G. Smith, commander of the unit, said, “We have suffered a great loss in the 18th Fires Brigade and express our deepest condolences. Those that have been affected by this tragic incident remain in our thoughts and prayers.”

In March 2011, several hundred members of the 2nd Battalion of the 10th Marine Regiment were at Bragg for annual artillery training during which a group was firing a similar weapon, an M777A2 lightweight howitzer, when a 155-mm round apparently exploded in the barrel.

Eight Marines and two Navy personnel were injured in that blast. A Marine spokesman at the time said most of the injuries were shrapnel wounds and lacerations. The Marines temporarily halted all live-firing following the incident. The Defense Department did not announce the findings of an investigation into whether the Marines had followed proper procedures, whether there was a problem with the round or if the weapon had malfunctioned.

The Army said it will release updates on Friday’s incident “as deemed appropriate.” A report on the investigation will be used within the Department of Defense “for accident-prevention purposes only.”

Maj. Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr., Commanding General of the 82nd, said in the statement: “Our first priority is to provide the families with the support they need during this difficult time.”

Soldiers with Battery A, 1st Battalion, 321st Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade (Airborne), fire an M777A2 howitzer at Fort Bragg, N.C., on April 28, 2010.


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