The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee called the deaths of two soldiers in an Apache helicopter crash in Kentucky on Friday “heartbreaking” in a statement Saturday, adding that military readiness is in crisis.
Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he grieves “over the loss of our men and women in uniform,” and added that “the tragic deaths of troops killed in aviation accidents over the past month is especially heartbreaking.”
“What has been evident to me for some time is now becoming clear to the American people. The readiness of our military is at a crisis point,” he said.
Thornberry’s remarks come after a string of military air crashes in the last several days that have killed seven service members. He emphasized that ensuring the safety of US troops has to be the Pentagon’s highest priority.
“Congress voted to provide our troops the funds they need to begin turning this crisis around” and that “there can be no higher priority for the Department of Defense than ensuring that our aircraft are safe and that pilots get the training they need.”
The 101st Airborne Division said in a statement that the crash took place at the local training area of the soldiers’ base at Fort Campbell, which straddles the Kentucky-Tennessee state line.
The accident happened at about 9:50 p.m., local time Friday evening and involved two soldiers from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, the statement said.
The crew was conducting routine training when the accident occurred and there were no other casualties, it said. The cause of the accident is under investigation, the Army said.
The Army is not releasing the names of the deceased pending notification of the next of kin.
“This is a day of sadness for Fort Campbell and the 101st Airborne,” said Brig. Gen. Todd Royar, acting senior commander of the 101st Airborne Division and Ft. Campbell. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the Families during this difficult time.”
– Four Marines were killed in a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter crash during a routine training mission near El Centro, California, at about 2:35 p.m. PT on Tuesday, according to the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.
– An Air Force Thunderbird pilot was killed when his F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada during a routine aerial demonstration training flight on Wednesday.
– At the request of the Djiboutian government, the US military has halted its air operations in the East African country, a critical location in the fight against terrorism, following two accidents involving military aircraft, three defense officials told CNN.
On Tuesday, a Marine Corps Harrier jet crashed at the country’s international airport. The pilot was able to eject and was treated at a medical facility but has since been released according to several officials. Later the same day, a Marine Corps CH-53 helicopter sustained “minor damage” while landing in Arta Beach.
While the helicopter’s crew was uninjured, the officials told CNN that the Navy is investigating reports that two civilians were injured by debris from the helicopter’s rotor wash. As of Thursday, the officials said Navy investigators had not been granted access to the alleged victims by local police.
CNN’s Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.