Two soldiers killed in single-vehicle accident in Ethiopia
Two soldiers killed Monday afternoon in a single-vehicle accident in Ethiopia have been identified as members of the Guam Army National Guard on assignment to the U.S. anti-terrorism task force in the Horn of Africa, military officials said Tuesday.
Spc. Gregory D. Fejeran and Spc. Christopher Fernandez were killed when their sport utility vehicle rolled over while they were traveling between Addis Ababa and Hurso, according to a Guam National Guard spokesman.
A third soldier, identified by the Guard as Sgt. Robert J. Balajadia, was injured and medically evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. The Ethiopian driver also was injured, according to military officials.
All three soldiers were assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 294th Infantry Regiment, the Guam Guard said. The unit deployed to the Horn of Africa in February 2006 and is scheduled to return in May. The unit is part of the U.S.-led Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, headquartered at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti.
“The accident was not a result of hostile action,” a Guam National Guard spokesman said Tuesday. “The soldiers were part of a U.S. Army Force Protection Team … in Ethiopia in support of a Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) mission.”
A full investigation into the incident will be undertaken, officials said.
“On behalf of the Guam National Guard, our condolences go out to the Fernandez and Fejeran families. We are praying for the speedy recovery of Sergeant Balajadia,” Maj. Gen. Donald J. Goldhorn, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, was quoted as saying in the Guam Guard news release.
The accident happened around 5:25 p.m. on Monday, some 30 miles southwest of Hurso, according to a Task Force HOA release. The injured soldier and driver were initially evacuated by helicopter to Camp Lemonier for medical treatment, the release read.
“The accident occurred when the vehicle in which the Americans were traveling fell into a deep ravine,” a spokesman for Ethiopia’s Federal Police told news agencies.
The U.S. military has been sending trainers to the sprawling Ethiopian Training Academy in Hurso as part of the Horn of Africa mission.
The training involves soldiers with the 1st Infantry Division’s 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry Regiment and the Guam Army National Guard and focuses on basic infantry tactics, noncommissioned officer skills and officer logistics.
The military-to-military training is part of a larger U.S. effort aimed at preventing Islamist militants from gaining a foothold in a region that has been plagued by poverty, armed conflict, drought and famine. The training had taken on added urgency recently, with the Ethiopian military’s battle against Muslim militants in Somalia.
Task Force Horn of Africa is designed to help countries in the region “combat terrorism in order to establish a secure environment and enable regional stability. The mission is focused on detecting, disrupting and ultimately defeating trans-national terrorist groups operating in the region,” according to briefing materials.
Six troops rescued from downed copter in Kenya
Six U.S. servicemembers were rescued after their helicopter crashed Monday during an exercise in Kenya, U.S. military officials said late Monday.
Two of the crewmembers aboard the UH-1N Huey were treated for “non-life threatening injuries” by doctors aboard the USS Bataan, a U.S. ship participating in the exercise.
The crash took place near Manda Bay, Kenya, during an exercise dubbed Edged Mallet, an annual training mission with the Kenyan military. There was no word on what caused the crash, though an investigation has begun, officials said.
The Huey was assigned to the Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron – 264 (Reinforced), 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
—Stars and Stripes