Army Officer Overseeing Safety Gets Prison Sentence After Private's Death on Firing Range

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Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
U.S. Army soldiers zero and qualify on their M4 carbines during the Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash, March 5, 2022. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. Adeline Witherspoon)

An Army officer was found negligent and sentenced to four months in prison for failing to follow safety procedures at a Fort Campbell, Kentucky, firing range where a junior soldier died.

Capt. Christopher Peeples, an aviation officer, was found guilty of dereliction of duty by a court-martial on April 13, according to legal records released by the Army. The court found Peeples failed to follow Army safety precautions while he was in charge of firearms training at the base in 2018.

An Army private died at the range on Aug. 1, 2018. An attorney for Peeples did not immediately provide a comment when reached Tuesday.

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The court documents show that the Army officer didn't ensure proper medical care was available at the Fort Campbell range during training, and that his conduct was "likely to cause death or grievous bodily harm."

Peeples "failed to rehearse [medical evacuation] routes and procedures, and negligently failed to ensure the overall safe conduct of training and proper use of the installation training complex," according to the documents.

The name of the private who died on the range was redacted in the court documents, and the cause of death was unclear. Pvt. Jeremy J. Wells, 19, died at Fort Campbell on a small-arms training range on the same date as the incident noted in court records. Wells was also part of the same unit as Peeples.

At the time, Peeples served in B Company, 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division.

Army doctrine mandates that medics must be present whenever weapons are being fired. Range personnel are typically supposed to rehearse treating wounds and evacuating soldiers to a hospital in the event of an injury.

In addition to not rehearsing proper medical responses, Peeples also did not have enough noncommissioned officers to oversee safety on the range, according to the court. Rules required one soldier for every four shooters to observe and catch any unsafe actions.

Weapons also were not inspected to ensure they were clear and not loaded between firing iterations, another mandated practice during firearms training.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

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