Two soldiers were killed early Saturday morning when their AH-64 Apache helicopter went down during pre-deployment training operations at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.
The helicopter reportedly crashed at around 1:00 A.M. local time, though no further details into what may have caused the incident have been released. The pilot and co-pilot both hailed from the 4th Infantry Division in Colorado, though they have not yet been identified pending next of kin notifications.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the death of two 4th Infantry Division soldiers at the National Training Center today,” said Maj. Gen. Randy A. George, commanding general of the 4th Infantry Division and Fort Carson.
“Our heartfelt prayers and condolences go out to their families and friends during this difficult and painful time. The loss of any soldier truly saddens everyone here at the Mountain Post and it is a tremendous loss to the team,” George said.
The Army went on to say that the cause of the crash is currently under investigation.
It is likely that the family members of the fallen soldiers may see a delay in receiving the $100,000 death gratuity payment allotted to the families of fallen service members to ensure financial stability and aid in the travel, planning, and logistics associated with the soldier’s funerals. Although the shutdown went on for only a few days, it will take time for the system to process their claim and disburse payment.
Further, pending the result of the investigation into the cause of this crash, it is likely that it may be yet another in a recent rash of American military aircraft mishaps over the past year that could be attributed to inconsistent funding and budgetary issues limiting training opportunities and hindering maintenance operations. In November, Maj. Gen. William Gayler, the head of Army Aviation, told Congress that flight hours for Army pilots are currently limited to the lowest they’ve been in over 30 years, as a result of budget constraints.
A number of high-profile collisions involving U.S. Navy vessels have also been attributed to insufficient training and maintenance. Last week, the Navy filed criminal charges against the commanders of two vessels that collided with commercial ships in separate incidents last summer. An investigation into the crews of each ship showed serious lapses in required operational training.
“For too long, we have asked our military to stoically carry a ‘success at any cost’ attitude as they work tirelessly to accomplish the mission with now inadequate and misaligned resources, simply because the Congress could not maintain regular order,” Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. last week.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Army