Soldier Shot During Special Forces Training Event After Live Ammo Mixed in with Blanks

A U.S. Army infantryman grips his M249 light machine gun
A U.S. Army infantryman grips his M249 light machine gun during Exercise Southern Vanguard 24 in Oiapoque, Brazil, on Nov. 12, 2023. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Joseph Liggio)

All live weapon training for the Army's Special Forces units, and most of the elements that support them, will be shut down for much of this week due to a safety stand-down -- after a soldier was accidentally shot during a training event, the service confirmed to

A 7th Infantry Division soldier at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state was accidentally shot April 25 by another soldier with an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, or SAW, light machine gun, according to one source with direct knowledge of the situation. The injured soldier was in stable condition and recovering at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Starting Tuesday, all Special Forces, civil affairs and psychological operations units will have a three-day safety stand-down. The pause includes all scheduled live weapons training being canceled, according to Maj. Russell Gordon, a spokesperson for 1st Special Forces Command. It was unclear which unit the shooter is assigned to. The base is home to the 1st Special Forces Group. 

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The incident occurred during force-on-force training when live ammunition was accidentally mixed in with blanks. Blank ammo is commonly used in training and acts in all the same ways as live ammunition does in real weapons, except there is no projectile.

The Army typically takes great care to keep blank and live ammunition separate, and contaminating one set of the ammunition with the other is considered among the most damning safety mishaps possible.

"It is prudent of us to take immediate actions now to do an internal assessment as part of a safety stand-down," Gordon said in a statement to

It's unclear how live ammunition made its way into blank fire training. Service officials are still investigating the incident.

The two types of ammunition are visually very distinct. It's unclear whether the SAW was loaded with a belt of live ammunition. That weapon, which uses 5.56mm rounds, can also be fired using a rifle magazine, in which a small number of live rounds could have been more easily mixed in, though that would still be an egregious error.

All units were ordered to conduct an inventory of all of their arms rooms and ensure that the ammunition storage is in compliance with Army regulations. Team rooms, where Special Forces soldiers often store gear, will be inspected by senior leadership. Units will also have an amnesty period for soldiers to turn in ammunition that may not be currently stored properly.

Noncommissioned officers will also receive additional training related to ammunition handling and conducting safe firearms training.

This Special Forces safety stand-down follows an unrelated stand-down in February, when the Army National Guard grounded its helicopters after back-to-back AH-64 Apache crashes. Two Mississippi Guardsmen died in one incident, and two Utah Guardsmen were injured in a separate crash.

Editor's note: This story has been edited to clarify that it's unclear to what unit the soldier who shot the weapon is assigned.

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