WASHINGTON — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee noted that this week’s crashes of Air Force Thunderbird and Navy Blue Angels aircraft as well as a deadly accident at Fort Hood are “the latest in an alarming increase of significant military accidents.”
“Just a few days after Memorial Day, we are reminded that service to our country involves risks beyond those posed by our enemies. My prayers are with those we have lost in Texas and Tennessee this week, as well as their families,” Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said.
“Those who have died and their families deserve a full, objective, complete look at the circumstances and any deeper causes that should be addressed,” he added.
The Thunderbird pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, was able to crash-land in a field near the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony on Thursday, where President Obama was delivering the commencement address. He was unhurt and later met Obama before the president departed from Colorado Springs.
Marine Corps Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed in a Blue Angels training exercise after taking off from the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport in Smyrna, Tenn., on Thursday.
“No matter where they hail from, every member of the Blue Angels family is considered a part of our Florida family, which is why all Floridians today mourn the loss of one of our own,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said today.
“While all of the details are not yet known, it is apparent that the pilot sacrificed himself and prevented additional loss of life by steering his aircraft away from a populated area,” Rubio noted. “This heroic action would be consistent with the pilot’s record of courageous service to our country and the core values all Blue Angels are known for.”
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters at a press conference in Singapore today that Thursday “was a tough day for the U.S. military.”
“A Navy Blue Angel, an F-18 crashed in Tennessee. Unfortunately, the pilot was lost in that incident,” Carter said. “And down at Fort Hood, a troop carrier overturned and there were casualties also in that incident.”
Maj. Gen. John Uberti, deputy commanding general III Corps and Fort Hood, told reporters today that five soldiers were killed and four were missing after floodwaters overcame a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle.
“Due to the quick action of some other Soldiers that were training, we were able to rescue three Soldiers who are in stable condition at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center and will potentially be released later today,” Uberti said. “Our priority has been, since the first report of this incident and continues to be, the search for our four missing teammates.”
Carter said he just wanted “to signify while I was here that our hearts and thoughts are with the family of those who lost.”
“And with respect to the fact that both of these were lost as safety issues in training, we’re going to make sure that we learn lessons that we can from the investigations we conduct after these incidents,” the secretary added. “And that we take accidents in the future to prevent such accidents and keep our people safe.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that Thursday “provided us yet another solemn reminder of the ever-present dangers facing our all-volunteer armed forces.”
“The lives of their families and friends have been torn asunder, not by combat losses in faraway places, but in sudden and unexpected accidents that occurred in the homeland,” Cruz said. “Preparing for war, training for combat conditions is inherently dangerous, and yet brave men and women across this nation routinely volunteer to face those risks.”