Soldier Killed, 12 Injured in Humvee Rollover at Fort Polk

Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess. (Photo: U.S. Army)
Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess. (Photo: U.S. Army)

An Army soldier was killed Wednesday and 12 others were injured in a rollover accident involving several Humvees, Army officials said Thursday.

Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess, 34, with 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne) died in the crash that occurred at Fort Polk, Louisiana, at 3 a.m. during exercises at the Joint Readiness Training Center.

The other soldiers sustained non-life threatening injuries, according to 1st Special Forces Command. Four were members of the Nevada Army National Guard assigned to 72nd Military Police Company, Las Vegas. The others were members of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), stationed at Eglin Air Force Base.

"Our sympathies go out to the family of the individual that was killed," said Brig. Gen. William Burks, adjutant general of the Nevada Army National Guard, in a statement issued shortly after the accident. "We are closely monitoring this situation and hope for a speedy recovery to those who were injured."

The accident was the fourth fatal rollover involving military personnel in training this year and the second in less than a week. On May 9, Marine 1st Lt. Conor McDowell died and six Marines were injured when their light armored vehicle rolled over during training at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

In April, Marine Staff Sgt. Joshua Braica of 1st Marine Raider Battalion died when his all-terrain utility vehicle, called a Polaris MRZR, rolled over during an exercise, also at Camp Pendleton. Two other Marines were injured.

And in mid-January, Army Spc. Octavious Lakes died and three other soldiers were injured when the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle they were in in rolled over at the Army’s National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.

McDowell's father told Washington, D.C. television station WUSA 9 earlier this week that the U.S. military must do more to end training accidents. In 2017, 80 service members died in training accidents and in the early part of 2018, 25 were killed in aviation mishaps.

"We are not seeking revenge. That's not in our hearts," Michael H.C. McDowell told WUSA9. "We are seeking to prevent the next Conor McDowell pointlessly dying."

Army officials did not provide details of Wednesday's accident, citing an ongoing investigation. The troops were at Fort Polk for simulated combat exercises, according to the National Guard.

"Safety is paramount in all that we do. We train as we fight and unfortunately, accidents occur during realistic training in dynamic environments," Burke said.

Hess, of Belton, Missouri, enlisted in the Army Reserves in 2004. A year later, he went on active duty and was assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he serve as a heavy equipment operator and squad leader.

He deployed to Iraq twice, from 2007 to 2008 and again from 2009 to 2010.

In 2013, he qualified as a civil affairs soldier. Later assignments included South Korea, Indonesia and Cambodia. He was airborne qualified and completed a number of mentally and physically challenging courses including the Survival, Evasion Resistance and Escape, or SERE, Course and the Chinese-Mandarin Special Operations Language Course.

"On behalf of the soldiers and families of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, I extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to Staff Sgt. Hess' family," said Col. Charles R. Burnett, commander of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade in a release. "Jacob's character and professionalism display his dedication and service to the brigade and its mission."

Hess' awards included four Army Commendation Medals, six Army Achievement Medals. He was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

"Jacob was a talented noncommissioned officer and dedicated member of the brigade. He will be greatly missed by those who had the great fortune and opportunity to know him," Burnett said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @patriciakime.

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