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GAO investigating training fatalities

Although no timeline has been announced, the Government Accountability Office is doing a special investigation into training fatalities in the Marines and the Army, including the case of the three Fort Stewart soldiers killed when their combat vehicle overturned on Oct. 21.

The soldiers were training in darkness when their armored vehicle fell from a bridge and landed upside down in water, killing three soldiers and injuring three others.

Director for Military Strategy and Operations issues at GAO Cary Russell said last week the objectives of his agency’s review include:

• What are the trends in non-combat mishaps for ground combat vehicles used by the Army and Marine Corps, and to what extent have the Army and Marine Corps reported causal factors contributing to the mishaps?

• To what extent have Army and Marine Corps personnel who operate ground combat vehicles received the recommended number of training hours to meet operational and safety standards?

• To what extent have factors, such as ground combat vehicle availability and mission capable rates, affected the ability of Army and Marine Corps units to meet training requirements or increased safety risks?

• To what extent do the Army and Marine Corps inspect training ranges and maneuver areas to identify potential hazards and communicate the results of the inspections to manage risks?

• To what extent have the Army and Marine Corps taken actions to enhance the training, readiness, and safety of ground combat vehicle operations, and reduce or prevent non-combat casualties related to the use of these vehicles?

The GAO review was requested by two Congressional committees as well as four individual members. The House Committee on Armed Services and the Committee and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked for the investigation as did Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, and Reps Anthony G. Brown and Sen. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.

To conduct the investigation, “we will talk to various offices in the Army and the Marine Corps, including folks that conduct training and oversee safety and analysis,” Russell said.

The three Fort Stewart soldiers killed were Sgt. First Class Bryan Andrew Jenkins, 41, of Pembroke, a Florida native who joined the Army Sept. 14, 2001, three days after 9/11, and had two deployments to Iraq; Cpl. Thomas Cole Walker, 22, an Ohioan who joined the Army on July 19, 2016; and Pvt. First Class Antonio Gilbert Garcia, 21, of Arizona. He began active service Sept. 5, 2018.

The day after the Fort Stewart soldier fatalities a Marine was killed in a Humvee accident in California. Four other servicemen were killed in similar training accidents between May and August last year.

— Joe Parker 

Email Parker at


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