It will likely be next year before the Government Accountability Office reports on its investigation of training accidents in the Army and the Marine Corps. In the meantime an 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper was killed Wednesday at Fort Stewart when a parachute malfunctioned during training, as confirmed by Fort Bragg Officials.
The director for Military Strategy and Operations issues at GAO, Cary Russell, told the Courier last month, “We’re continuing to make progress towards our objectives. . . we’re tentatively looking at issuing a report sometime in the early 2021 timeframe.”
The GAO review is aimed at combat ground vehicle accidents and was started after three Fort Stewart soldiers were killed when their combat vehicle overturned on Oct. 21. 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.
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,” said Russell,
The Fort Stewart soldiers were training in darkness when their armored vehicle fell from a bridge and landed upside down in water below, killing three soldiers and injuring three others.
Russell listed the objectives of his agency’s review:
--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?
--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 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 House Committee on Oversight and Reform asked for the investigation as did four legislators: Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Sen. Chris Van Hollen, and Reps Anthony G. Brown and Sen. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger.
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 October 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.
Parker can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.