Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Calls for Congressional Hearing on Military Training Accidents

Aug 17, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Congressman Vern Buchanan today called on the House Armed Services Committee to hold a public hearing on military training accidents following the death of a Bradenton soldier last year and a recent training accident that left nine service members dead in California. 

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the U.S. House Armed Services Committee, Buchanan stressed the need for military training reforms and a disturbing rise in deadly training accidents. 

“The loss of a single American soldier is tragic and the continued loss of service members in training accidents is completely unacceptable,” Buchanan said. “We need to get to the bottom of these tragic accidents and enact reforms that will save lives going forward. That’s why I’m calling on the House Armed Services Committee to immediately conduct a public hearing on this important issue.”

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, between 2006 and 2018 a staggering 32 percent of active-duty military deaths were the result of training accidents. During that same time period, only 16 percent of service members were killed in action. And in 2017 alone, nearly four times as many service members died in training accidents than were killed in action.

Late last month an amphibious assault vehicle carrying 16 crew members sank off the coast of southern California during a training exercise. The Department of Defense has revealed that eight marines and one navy sailor died during the training accident. The cause of the accident is yet to be determined by investigators. This is the third accident involving an amphibious assault vehicle at Camp Pendleton in the past decade, accidents in 2011 and 2017 left one service member dead and 15 injured.

In 2019, Buchanan’s constituent Army Specialist Nicholas Panipinto died in a training accident at Camp Humphreys in South Korea when his Bradley Fighting Vehicle overturned during a road-test. Numerous safety and training failures contributed to SPC Panipinto’s death, including malfunctions of the vehicle’s communication systems, defective or broken equipment, a lack of medical services on base and significant delays in medical response to the scene of the accident.

Buchanan has repeatedly called for changes to military training procedures following Panipinto’s death. Last month, the U.S. House overwhelmingly passed an amendment authored by Buchanan requiring the Pentagon to examine emergency medical services at U.S. military bases A lack of emergency services on base and delays in medical response was cited in Panipinto’s death. 

Specifically, Buchanan’s amendment requires the Defense Department to examine emergency response capabilities and services currently available at every U.S. military base around the world and to report to Congress on the potential benefits and feasibility of requiring bases to have properly functioning MedEvac helicopters and fully-stocked military ambulances.

“The highest tribute that can be paid to the soldiers lost in training accidents is to enact reforms that ensure that these mistakes never happen again,” Buchanan continued. “We cannot afford to wait any longer and risk the health and safety of our men and women in uniform.”

Read the full text of the letter below:

Dear Chairman Smith and Ranking Member Thornberry,

The death of my constituent Army Specialist Nicolas Panipinto last year and a recent training accident at Camp Pendleton that left nine service members dead are tragic examples showing the obvious need for reforms to military training. That is why I am calling for the House Armed Services Committee to immediately hold a public hearing looking into the disturbing frequency of U.S. military training accidents around the world and to examine potential reforms to help save lives.

The loss of a single American soldier is tragic and the continued loss of service members in preventable training accidents is completely unacceptable. The recent deadly accident in California is the third accident involving an amphibious assault vehicle at Camp Pendleton in the past decade, accidents in 2011 and 2017 left one service member dead and 15 injured. Accidents like this one and the one that took the life of Specialist Panipinto cannot be tolerated. We need to get to the bottom of these tragic accidents and enact reforms that will save lives going forward.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, between 2006 and 2018 a staggering 32 percent of active-duty military deaths were the result of training accidents. During that same time period, only 16 percent of service members were killed in action. And in 2017 alone, nearly four times as many service members died in training accidents than were killed in action. Serious steps need to be taken to prevent these tragedies from continuing.

The highest tribute that can be paid to the soldiers lost in training accidents is to enact reforms that ensure that these mistakes never happen again. We cannot afford to wait any longer and risk the health and safety of our men and women in uniform. I thank you for your attention to this critically important matter.