The member of the U.S. Military’s elite 75th Ranger Regiment concerned in a deadly automobile accident final yr died after he fell out of his Stryker wheeled armored automobile when it rolled right into a ditch greater than 40 toes deep throughout a coaching train. The automobile ultimately got here to relaxation on high of him. The Rangers have been using the eight×eight Strykers for almost 15 years now, however the particular operations unit’s use of the automobiles turned extra broadly identified after a very seen deployment to Syria in 2017.
U.S. Military Particular Operations Command first introduced the loss of life of 1st Lieutenant Connor Bednarzyk, a 25-year outdated initially from Virginia, in an unspecified “single tactical automobile accident” on Sept. 10, 2019. The precise accident had occurred three days earlier on a coaching vary at Fort Benning, Georgia, which is the place the 75th is predicated. Bednarzyk’s had obtained his first task in 2016 as an infantry officer within the 4th Infantry Division, earlier than becoming a member of the Rangers. Data present that he had deployed briefly to Afghanistan earlier in 2018.
Bednarzyk’s formal place on the time of the accident was because the chief of 2nd Platoon, Firm E, third Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment. Firm E is the Ahead Help Firm (FSC) for third Battalion and 2nd Platoon handles distribution of provides, reminiscent of gasoline, water, and ammunition, and performs varied transportation features.
The accident report, a redacted copy of which The Struggle Zone obtained through the Freedom of Info Act, notes that Ranger FSCs are distinctive in that the people assigned to lots of the conventional assist positions are actually certified as squaddies, identified the Military by the Navy Occupation Specialty (MOS) code 11B, giving them a extra multi-purpose character. As well as, battalions would usually use personnel and automobiles, reminiscent of Strykers, assigned to the FSCs to offer Floor Assault Pressure (GAF) packages to maneuver Rangers to and from their targets.
In the course of the coaching train in September 2019, Firm E offered two GAFs, every with 4 M1256 Strykers. A four-Stryker GAF may carry a single Ranger platoon.
The M1256 variant is infantry service model of the newer Double-V Hull (DVH) Stryker, which, because the identify implies, has an improved V-shaped underbelly to higher deflect the blasts from improvised explosive gadgets and mines and shield the occupants inside. The Ranger first started utilizing the unique M1126 infantry service variant in 2005.
On the time of the accident, Bednarzyk was performing because the automobile commander of one of many M1256s. The automobile was driving in additionally had the driving force and a radio phone operator (RTO) to deal with communications.
Sept. 7 marked the third day of GAF coaching workouts as half of a bigger pre-deployment train. At roughly 9:00 PM native time, Bednarzyk’s Stryker and three different M1256s deposited Rangers from Firm C, third Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment for nighttime train on the designated drop off level inside Fort Benning’s Digital Multipurpose Vary Complicated (DMPRC) with out situation. They then rotated and commenced to drive again to their staging space in the dead of night.
Lower than 10 minutes after dropping off the Rangers, Bednarzyk’s automobile started to float and subsequently veered off the right-hand shoulder of the highway, rolling right into a 41-foot ditch. The first Lieutenant, standing within the commander’s place, was thrown from the automobile. The 20-ton armored automobile rolled over, sustaining vital exterior injury, and got here to relaxation on high of him.
The driving force and RTO remained secured within the automobile and had been capable of dig themselves out with what seem to have been solely minor accidents and commenced to name for medical assist and seek for Bednarzyk in the dead of night. They ultimately discovered him, unresponsive and and not using a pulse, pinned beneath the automobile. At nearly 10:00 PM, emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene and spent roughly 20 minutes attending to the Lieutenant earlier than saying him useless on the scene.
It stays unclear precisely what led to the accident itself. The Military’s 5 findings and accompanying suggestions are fully redacted beneath an exemption to the FOIA that permits U.S. authorities businesses to legally withhold info as a result of it discusses ongoing inner issues and since releasing the small print would possibly prejudice the ultimate final result. It additionally permits them to take action if the knowledge would possibly give an inaccurate impression about whether or not or not the U.S. authorities intends to pursue a selected plan of action. But it surely’s additionally a mechanism that businesses so routinely abuse to hide controversial or embarrassing info that consultants have dubbed it the “withhold it since you wish to” exemption.
In 2016, the Military had begun testing an improved DVH Stryker design with enhancements to extend engine energy and different efficiency. The DVH Strykers are heavier than the unique design. The upgrades improved mobility whereas driving up and down steep grades, in accordance with a 2017 report from the Pentagon’s Workplace of the Director of Operational Check and Analysis. Bednarzyk’s Stryker was one of many earlier fashions, however was additionally driving on a comparatively degree roadway on the time.
As a wheeled automobile, the Stryker does have increased floor stress than its tracked counterparts and it’s not unusual to listen to concerning the automobiles getting caught within the sand, mud, and different delicate terrain. “Our preliminary understanding is that the automobile drifted proper beneath Iimited visibility (dusty, darkish, white Iights on) and a delicate shouIder collapsed beneath the burden of the automobile,” the Military’s report says, suggesting this will likely have been an element within the accident.
Strykers even have a excessive heart of gravity and the hazard of rollovers, particularly when touring at increased speeds, is well-known. Within the mid-2000s, the Military instituted new driver coaching necessities and added improved security options, together with new seatbelts, to assist mitigate these points.
Additionally it is not clear how a lot expertise Bednarzyk, or the automobile’s driver, had with the Stryker, generally, or the DVH mannequin particularly. Bednarzyk’s time within the 4th Infantry Division had been with a dismounted infantry unit. The Military’s accident report additionally notes that Firm E solely obtained the Strykers between January and February 2018, particularly for the train. The assist firm personnel obtained coaching on the right way to function them between April and Could 2018, in addition to a course on the right way to make use of the automobile’s distant weapon station in July.
Nonetheless, it is very important be aware that the GAF had carried out day and night time maneuvers on Sept. 5 and 6 with none points. However that the Military had 5 main findings and had suggestions about the right way to cope with every one in all them does point out that there was not less than some mixture of procedural or technical points that turned obvious after the accident.
Regardless, the accident additionally shines a light-weight on the common integration of Strykers into Ranger operations, although one may not consider armored automobiles as being a characteristic in particular operations forces missions. These will be particularly worthwhile in areas the place there’s a better menace from typical forces armed with heavier weapons. As famous, in 2017, Ranger Strykers appeared in and across the contested metropolis of Manbij in northern Syria, the place they offered a buffer between Turkish troops and native Kurdish forces and likewise helped defend the latter from forces aligned with Syrian dictator Bashar Al Assad.
These Strykers additionally merely signify the overwhelming majority of the standard armored automobiles natural throughout the U.S. particular operations neighborhood. Military Particular Forces items have a a lot smaller fleet of 6×6 Pandur armored automobiles, also referred to as Armored Floor Mobility Automobiles, although they’re now working to accumulate a substitute design.
Hopefully, the Military has discovered worthwhile classes from the accident that claimed Bednarzyk’s life and has been capable of implement any mandatory adjustments to assist stop comparable Stryker mishaps from occurring sooner or later.
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