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2 Soldiers in Louisiana Hit by Tank, Killed During Drill

Casualties of the Ft. Polk training exercise were with the 3rd Brigade of 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, Ky., recently in Afghanistan.

November 15, 2002|From Associated Press

FT. POLK, La. — Two soldiers involved in an urban assault drill were killed Thursday when they were run over by a 63-ton tank.

The accident came a day after an Air Force Reserve F-16 fighter crashed in Utah, killing the pilot. That crash was the second fatal accident involving F-16s in Utah in less than three weeks.

The soldiers were with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, Ky., which was recently stationed in Afghanistan, Ft. Polk spokesman Ron Elliott said.

Elliott said he didn't know whether the soldiers had seen overseas service.

The accident occurred about 5:20 a.m.; both soldiers were taken by helicopter to the Ft. Polk hospital, where they were pronounced dead, Elliott said.

About 400 soldiers were participating in the predawn drill at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center. The victims were run over by an M-1 Abrams tank, Elliott said. They were not part of the tank's crew, he added.

Their identities were withheld until relatives could be notified. The accident was under investigation.

The drill involved a battalion-size force trying to take over an urban target, Elliott said. The training center has a simulated village that was the target of the drill.

Elliott said the 101st was not training for any specific deployment, such as Iraq, and that the exercises were scheduled a year ago.

The 101st Airborne is a rapid-deployment, air assault division trained to go anywhere in the world within 36 hours.

About 4,000 soldiers from the division's 3rd Brigade, 187th Regiment, fought in Afghanistan. The division's tour ended in August.

In Utah on Wednesday afternoon, the single-seat F-16C went down in the desert, killing Lt. Col. Dillion L. McFarland, 40, a member of the 419th Fighter Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit.

Authorities located the wreckage and McFarland's body about 2 1/2 hours later, said Stephanie Johns, a fighter wing spokeswoman.

There was no immediate word concerning what caused the crash.

McFarland, a commercial pilot, husband and father of two who lived near Hill Air Force Base, joined the 419th in 1998 and had more than 3,000 flying hours in an F-16, including 85 combat hours, Johns said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the warrior we lost," fighter wing commander Col. Wayne Conroy said.

McFarland's jet crashed about 25 miles northeast of Wendover, over the military's test and training range.

McFarland's jet was carrying no live weapons, but had an inert missile used for training purposes, Maj. Shawn Mecham said.

On Oct. 25, two F-16Cs collided about 25 miles southeast of Wendover. One pilot ejected safely.

The body of the other pilot, Lt. Jorma Huhtala, was found the next day after an extensive search, several miles from the wreckage of his plane.

That crash remains under investigation.

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