Army searches for soldier who didn’t return after routine land navigation training

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Noah Feit
The State

A search is underway for a missing Fort Jackson soldier who did not return from a training exercise Monday, according to the U.S. Army.

Staff Sgt. Jaime Contreras was reported missing at a Monday night news conference by Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, Fort Jackson’s commanding officer.

Kelly said that Contreras was participating with the U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy as it conducted routine land navigation training. Contreras is a drill sergeant candidate, according to the Army.

The exercise started at about 10 a.m. Monday, according to Kelly.

Information about where the exercise was conducted, along with the last place Contreras was seen, was not available.

Contreras was supposed to return at 1:30 p.m., but did not show, according to Kelly.

“Staff Sgt. Contreras did not return at the designated time,” Kelly said at the 10 p.m. news conference. “Drill sergeant leaders and candidates immediately began a search and alerted the Fort Jackson Emergency Services that we had a missing soldier.”

Kelly described Contreras as a 40-year-old Hispanic man who was last seen wearing a uniform. Further information about Contreras, including where he’s originally from and his service record, were not available.

The Army did not say if Contreras was considered lost, or if he chose not to return. There was no word if foul play is suspected in Contreras’ disappearance.

Along with the Army, Kelly said the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the South Carolina Army National Guard are assisting with search.

“We will continue to search for Staff Sgt. Contreras until he is located,” Kelly said.

Anyone who sees Contreras, or has information about the soldier, can call the Fort Jackson Department of Emergency Services at 803-751-3113.

Fort Jackson is the nation’s largest military basic training base with more than 50,000 recruits assigned there each year.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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