A US Army Special Operations soldier was the only fatality of a firing range incident on Thursday that left several others wounded- and sheds light on a disturbing trend of non-combat accidents taking a higher toll than combat deaths.
US Army Staff Sergeant Alexander P. Dalida was enrolled in the Special Forces Qualification Course at the US Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School when he was killed during the incident that left one dead and several injured at Fort Bragg on Thursday.
The incident is one of three non-combat incidents in the past few days, with over 50 troops left dead or injured in non-combat incidents since June.
On Wednesday, fifteen US Marines were injured after their amphibious landing vehicle caught fire in California. The day prior, a service member was killed during an aerial medical evacuation exercise in Texas.
For some lawmakers, this is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed at once.
“Over the past three years, in total 185 men and women in uniform have been killed in non-combat accidents,” Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday. “During the same period, 44 service members were killed in combat. Bottom line is this: I want all of my colleagues to concentrate on what I’m about to say: we are killing more of our own people in training than our enemies are in combat.”
2017 has been a bad year for military accidents, ranging from Marine aircraft falling out of the sky to Naval ship collisions and other mishaps. The military’s safety woes continue to pile up as the year draws to a close.
“In the past few months, we have seen far too many reports of death and injury to service members due to accidents during training,” McCain added in a written statement released today. “Four times as many service members died during routine training in the last three years than in combat.”
According to McCain, the incidents paint a picture of a force that is currently stretched to its limits.
“These incidents demonstrate the current over-taxed state of our military both at home and overseas, and the failure of Congress and the President to give our troops the training, resources, and equipment they need,” he said.
On Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis -who is historically known for his attention towards the well-being of troops- warned Congress that long-term continuing resolutions to fund the government will lead to irrecoverable lost training time, personnel gaps and delayed maintenance times.
Continuing resolutions -or CRs for short- hinder military operations because it prevents them from moving money and starting new programs.
“Long-term CRs impact the readiness of our forces and their equipment at a time when security threats are extraordinarily high,” Mattis wrote in a letter to defense committees that was obtained by CNN. “The longer the CR, the greater the consequences for our force.”
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