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Unnecessary military training deaths

Posted by John Reed on

Men die unnecessarily in military training. Why? Because the military is a bureaucracy and bureaucracies make otherwise normal people behave as if they were stupid or uncaring. More people die in the military bureaucracy than in other types of bureaucracies because the military has a macho self-image and their efforts to live up to that image often mean taking imprudent chances or being biased in favor of dealing with all difficulty or danger with toughness. In many cases, no amount of toughness could have saved the military personnel in question from injury or death.

I hope that by calling attention to these stupid injuries and deaths that I will help get the military to clean up its act. But I will not hold my breath. This crap has been going on for centuries in the military. Second best result would be to save the lives of prospective military personnel who will read this and decide these clowns are too incompetent for me to trust them with my life.

Death of Army Sergeant Lawrence Sprader at Fort Hood, TX 6/8-07 from heat stroke during map-reading exercise in desert

V.I.P. Demonstration deaths

The email that circulated in March, 2008 about the number of active-duty military deaths in the last five administrations
Below is a table from a report that has been partially circulated through emails. The email version shows the totals, but not the causes of death and thereby suggests that George W. Bush had fewer military deaths per year than his four predecessors in spite of the Iraq and Afghan wars. True, but I immediately wanted to know the causes of the deaths in the non-war years. Accident is the main cause of active-duty serviceperson deaths except during the Iraq/Afghan years. The fact that there have long been too many deaths by accident in the U.S. military is the point of this article and of the two articles to which there are links above.

I read the entire report and found the table below which breaks the deaths down by cause. One interesting thing that I found was that only about 2,500 have died as a result of hostile action in Iraq and Afghanistan, not the 4,000-dead Iraq-only figure the Left loves to talk about.

Also, the main reason for the relatively high numbers of non-hostile-action deaths in the Reagan years is the relatively large size of the U.S. military back then—about 2,000,000 active duty personnel. Since the end of the Reagan Administration, the number on active duty in the U.S. military has declined gradually to the current level of approximately 1.4 million. The deaths caused by accident as well as homicide, illness, suicide have generally been proportional to the number of people in the military. A similar chart could probably be made for the U.S. Postal Service with similar numbers of deaths per thousand employees. The only meaningful columns are those for “Hostile Action” and “Terrorist Attack” (which I would have thought was a hostile attack).

By the way, in spite of urging readers to check the Web site to confirm the numbers, the email has incorrect figures for 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2006.

Table 5. U.S. Active Duty Military Deaths, 1980 Through 2006,
Part II, Cause of Death


Total Deaths

Accident Hostile Action Homicide Illness Pending Self
Undetermined President
1980 2,392 1,556   174 419   231 1 1 Carter
1981 2,380 1,524   145 457   241   13 Reagan
1982 2,319 1,495   108 446   254   16 Reagan
1983 2,465 1,413 18 115 419   218 263 19 Reagan
1984 1,999 1,293 1 84 374   225 6 16 Reagan
1985 2,252 1,476   111 363   275 5 22 Reagan
1986 1,984 1,199 2 103 384   269   27 Reagan
1987 1,983 1,172 37 104 383   260 2 25 Reagan
1988 1,819 1,080   90 321   285 17 26 Reagan
1989 1,636 1,000 23 58 294   224   37 Bush I
1990 1,507 880   74 277   232 1 43 Bush I
1991 1,787 931 147 112 308   256   33 Bush I
1992 1,293 676   109 252   238 1 17 Bush I
1993 1,213 632   86 221   236 29 9 Clinton
1994 1,075 544   83 206   232   10 Clinton
1995 1,040 538   67 174   250 7 4 Clinton
1996 974 527 1 52 173   188 19 14 Clinton
1997 817 433   42 170   159   13 Clinton
1998 827 445   26 168 10 161 3 14 Clinton
1999 796 436   37 150 13 145   15 Clinton
2000 758 398   34 138   151 17 20 Clinton
2001 891 437 3 49 185 1 140 55 21 Bush II
2002 999 547 18 51 190 6 160   27 Bush II
2003 1,228 440 344 36 207 16 167   18 Bush II
2004 1,874 604 739 46 270 19 188   8 Bush II
2005 1,942 632 739 49 281 72 150   19 Bush II
2006 1,858 465 753 30 205 238 155   12 Bush II

Source: Defense Manpower Data Center, Statistical Information Analysis Division,
[], accessed on June 27, 2007.
Note: As of February 28, 2007 (reflects preliminary counts for 2006 and revised figures for 2004 and 2005).

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  • In his “Ranger” article Jack mentions the 4 folks who died at Ranger School in 1995. This would have been MY Ranger class—meaning that there would have been FIVE deaths in FEB 95 had I attended the course.

    I knew many of the folks who went on that final, fateful patrol. They all, to a man, informed me in eerie similarity of the details surrounding the head RI’s (Captain’s) decision to march them through chest-high 50-degree water for 11 hours.

    As they were about to set off on the morning patrol, one of the RI NCOs measured the water temperature and informed the RI Captain that they were “right at the threshold of hypothermia.”

    The Captain’s response was, “I don’t give a s*** about the safety threshold. These mother f**kers are going to hump, and if they all die of hypothermia then that means they don’t deserve a Ranger tab.”

    The reason this quote sticks so firmly in my mind is because of its inherent hatred and profanity directed by one US Federal employee (Captain) against fellow Federal employees (Ranger students) simply for the fact that they have not yet earned their Ranger tabs. Notice that the Captain’s verbiage and its deliverance intimate NOTHING about imparting effective, applicable training. He simply feels that, based upon his personal disdain for Ranger students, the human beings under his direct command and control probably do not deserve to continue living.

    Insanity defined.

    And THAT, dear reader, is the type of leadership which draws its salary from your hard-earned tax dollars.

    Jeff on
  • I agree: the military often confuses tough with stupid. For some reason, making things harder unnecessarily is admired. I was once on the rifle range in Friedburg (aka FreezerBurg) training area. The sleet and snow was coming down sideways, visibility barely 25 meters, and yet we were to continue rifle marksmanship. I was the only one in my company who’d supplied myself with the then-new all GoreTex gear (with ECW liners) and was able to function. I still wonder what the point of that was; the weather changes so rapidly in those mountains, had we waited a half hour, we could’ve fired in sunlight.

    It’s not just in training where this idiocy rules. I recall a change of command ceremony in New Jersey (at Dix, not Fort Monmouth,) wherein multiple brigades were present. The new commanding general, gleeful with his captive audience, proceeded to talk for over 4 hours. To this day, I cannot recall a word he said. We had 57 heat stroke casualties from his little speech. 57 troops had to be carried off that field, all so one ego maniac could pontificate. That is criminally negligent in my book.

    The Army should work to avoid confusing toughness with stupidity.

    Sean Valdrow on

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