FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) – The 3rd Infantry Division and Fort Stewart have released the identities of three soldiers killed Sunday in a training accident.
The soldiers have been identified as Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Jenkins, 41 of Gainesville, Florida, 21-year-old Pfc. Antonio Garcia, of Peoria, Arizona, and Cpl. Thomas Cole Walker, 22, of Conneaut, Ohio.
Three other soldiers who were injured in the accident have not been identified at this time. All are expected to be okay.
“I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family members of the three soldiers that we lost in yesterday’s tragic accident,” said Maj. Gen. Tony Aguto, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division on Monday. “It’s hard enough when you lose one soldier, but when you lose three at one time that pain is amplified. And we are really feeling and sharing that pain across the division and across our entire community.”
Officials say the soldiers were part of the 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, “Raiders,” and were conducting training for their deployment to the Fort Irwin National Training Center in California.
Aguto said they not only plan for these training exercises months in advance, but they rehearse them as well.
The six soldiers were in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle (BFV) when it rolled over off a bridge into a stream around 3:20 a.m. Sunday.
The three injured soldiers were transported to Winn Army Community Hospital. Two were treated and released and one was taken to Memorial Hospital in Savannah with non-life-threatening injuries. As of Monday, he is in stable condition.
Citing the ongoing investigation, officials were unable to provide many details in the cause of the accident.
Aguto did, however, address questions surrounding weather conditions at the time of the incident.
“In this particular incident, the effects of Nestor, or what was left of Nestor, had gone through,” he said, adding, “None of the warnings were out there to include storm surge or winds or any of those advisories. They had already passed at the time.”
Aguto said soldiers receive specific training for different conditions and scenarios involving the BFV.
“Training is tough, realistic, and we train for all sorts of conditions no matter where we go and you would expect us to do that,” he added.
The 3rd Infantry Division and a team from the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, Fort Rucker, Alabama, are investigating the accident.
In the next three to four weeks, officials will be gathering information for their field report before presenting their findings and recommendations to Fort Stewart.
The impact of Sunday’s incident is certainly being felt off of the base.
Many members of the community told News 3 the accident is too heartbreaking to talk about. But city leaders say they have a duty now to the families as they grieve for their loved ones.
“Everybody is just trying to figure out what can we do to help,” said Kimberly Moore, of the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, adding, “To think that it was just a training exercise to prepare them to go off and keep our country safe — I don’t know if it hurts differently because they still won’t be able to come home to their family and friends.”
The City of Hinesville is lowering flags to half staff in the soldiers’ honor. Mayor Allen Brown said that while his city is grieving, it will regroup and support the families.
“We’re praying for the families, we’re praying for Fort Stewart leadership,” Brown said. “We’re here always to try to do anything we can to help with the circumstance, but we know that’s not an easy process so…it’s tough.”
Congressman Buddy Carter released a statement Sunday following news of the accident, saying in part:
“The sacrifices of our military families are greater than most of us will ever know. As we learn more about the situation, we are praying for the health, hope and recovery of the injured soldiers in the coming days ahead. We can never truly properly convey our gratitude.”
News 3 spoke with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp Monday at a groundbreaking event in Screven County about the tragedy.
“It’s a tough profession they’re in,” Kemp said. “It’s dangerous but they’re resilient people and they should know that their state and their nation’s praying for them.”
Fort Stewart said 3rd Infantry Division soldiers are receiving grief counseling services.
Aguto said they will hold a memorial service in the near future to honor the three soldiers.