Out of sight. But not out of danger.
We were reminded all too painfully earlier this week about the extreme sacrifices our men and women in the military make every day serving our country, even when they’re not engaged in combat.
Army Specialist Abigail Jenks, a 21-year-old paratrooper from Gansevoort and 2018 graduate of Saratoga Springs High School, was killed during a training exercise in Fort Bragg, N.C., on Monday while conducting a jump.
We tend to pay most attention when a soldier is killed in combat. Maybe because they’re actively fighting the enemy, it’s easier to comprehend their sacrifice.
But being prepared for dangerous situations requires training for them. And that, by its nature, is also dangerous.
A Congressional Research Service Report dated July 2020 shows that the number of service members killed in accidents during training over a 14-year-period was double the number of those killed in action.
Sometimes, the casualties are due to the inexperience of young soldiers operating unfamiliar military equipment like tanks and amphibious vehicles and aircraft.
In the Army alone, 130,000 new soldiers come in every year. And they’re being quickly placed into situations that simulate combat.
Sometimes training casualties are due to problems with the design of the exercises. Sometimes the problem is with inadequate supervision. Sometimes it’s due to poorly designed, outdated or inadequately maintained equipment.
And sometimes, it’s due to the inherent danger of routine military tasks.
In the real world, vehicles crash. Boats sink. Parachutes don’t open.
Later this spring, the Government Accountability Office plans to release a report looking into safety issues raised about training to determine what more can be done to protect our service men and women as they prepare for combat.
Regardless of the cause, all military deaths are tragic, and all are the result of someone signing their name on the dotted line – perhaps giving up the college experience or a career in the private sector or starting a family – to serve their country.
Army Specialist Abigail Jenks made that choice.
We must never forget that serving in the military, whether in combat or in training, brings with it certain risks.
And we must remember to push our federal and state lawmakers to do all they can to ensure those who serve are placed in the best situation possible to survive.