Army Training Accident Kills Soldier


FORT DRUM, N.Y. (AP) - Without warning, two errant artillery shells from a training exercise exploded near a group of soldiers eating breakfast, killing one soldier and injuring 14.

"It sounds like this is just a tragic accident," said Lt. Nelson Cattarall, who was at a store outside the base at Fort Drum. "I mean, what are the chances of missing your target and hitting a bunch of your own guys who weren't anywhere near where you were shooting?"

The shells fell short during the firing exercise Wednesday morning, landing near soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division's 110th Military Intelligence Battalion. The soldiers were about 200 yards from the edge of the 90-square-mile intended target area, the Army said.

"These guys had major shrapnel wounds," said Maj. Kenneth McDorman, a spokesman for the 10th Mountain Division.

The dead soldier was identified as Pfc. William Hamm, 34, of Ocala, Fla. Some of the wounded had life-threatening injuries, while others were treated at the hospital and released, McDorman said.

An Army investigation team from Fort Rucker, Ala., was sent to determine what went wrong.

The howitzers that fired the shells are capable of firing several kinds of rounds, with a range of up to 12.2 miles. Wednesday's 105 mm rounds were fired from about three miles away and "wouldn't have made any sound," McDorman said.

The soldiers in the mess tent "would have had almost no warning," he said.

Fort Drum is the home of the 10th Mountain Division, an infantry force of about 10,500 soldiers. It was the Army's most deployed division during the 1990s, and members were recently sent to take part in the war in Afghanistan. The soldiers have yet to return.

The live-fire exercise Wednesday was one of two such exercises scheduled each year at the northern New York post, which sprawls across nearly 170 square miles. It is 140 miles northwest of Albany.

"Everyone takes them seriously because your life depends on how well you learn," Spc. Peter Lakey said. "We are focused and concentrated when we are in the field. It's not like little kids playing army in the back yard."

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