Special Forces Soldier Drowns at Key West Base

folded flag
A folded flag is presented during a ceremony. (Brent C. Powell/U.S. Army Reserve)

A soldier assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group drowned at Naval Air Station Key West in Florida Tuesday, the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center said.

In an email Wednesday, Michael Negard, head of public affairs for the Combat Readiness Center, said one of its teams will be in charge of investigating the death of the soldier.

The Army has not yet identified the soldier.

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The readiness center would not provide any information about the circumstances of the soldier’s drowning, but Army Times reported he was training at the Army’s Special Forces Underwater Operations School at NAS Key West.

The Combat Readiness Center is located at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and has teams of investigators who head up reviews into similarly severe mishaps – known as Class A mishaps, or investigations in which the findings could have an effect across the Army.

Class A mishaps include those that cause injuries or occupational illnesses that result in someone’s death or permanent total disability, property damage of at least $2.5 million, or a destroyed, missing or abandoned aircraft or missile.

Training deaths happen on a regular basis in the military, one of the risks of pushing young men and women to their physical limits. Last month, a 2nd Infantry Division soldier died 10 days after suffering what was described as a medical incident during combat water survival training in South Korea. In March, a soldier died during an unspecified training incident at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, during the “Swamp Phase” of the Army’s Ranger school. And in April, a sailor who had been learning how to save fellow service members at Aviation Rescue Swimmer School in Pensacola, Florida, died after a high-risk training evaluation in a pool.

Last August, a Republican lawmaker raised concerns to the House Armed Services Committee about what he called the “disturbing rise in deadly training accidents,” and called for hearings and for the military to reform how it conducts training.

That lawmaker, Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., pointed to the 2019 death of a soldier in a Humvee rollover accident while training, and the July 2020 deaths of eight Marines and a sailor when their Assault Amphibious Vehicle sunk.

Correction: This story originally incorrectly identified Rep. Vern Buchanan as a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

-- Stephen Losey can be reached at stephen.losey@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLosey.

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