A single-vehicle rollover accident on October 2nd claimed the lives of two soldiers outside Fairbanks, AK. A Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) was transporting 17 soldiers from the 11th Airborne Division out to the Yukon Training Area near Salcha, Alaska. US Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell talked to Stars and Stripes about the incident. According to him, the LMTV skidded and flipped, and no other vehicles were involved.
As first responders came to the scene, others triaged as best they could. Two severely injured soldiers were taken by Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, and the others were taken via helicopter or ambulance to the Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.
SPC Jeremy Daniel Evans, 23, of Knoxville, TN, and SPC Brian Joshua Snowden, 22, of Lonedell, MO, have been identified as the two who were killed in the accident. They both arrived in 2021, with Evens arriving in January and Snowden a few months later.
Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, 11th Airborne Division Commander, provided a release after the next of kin notification. “This is an incredible loss for all of us across the division. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends, and fellow soldiers of Spc. Evans and Spc. Snowden… While we’re always challenged by the environment, we’re Arctic Angels, we overcome these challenges and accomplish our mission by being a team, and teams take care of one another, especially in times like these.”
Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks is home to the Division. They are home to 7,200 or so soldiers, and it represents the northernmost installation in the US military inside the United States. A base frequently used for cold weather training and weapons testing, the harsh unforgiving winter is considered to be the Yin to the Yang of Fort Drum when it comes to the cold. The two bases frequently swap training locations for a variety of cold-weather training.
This marks the second fatal crash in Alaska for 2023. Back in April, three died as two helicopters collided during training as they flew to Fort Wainwright. Accidents like either one happen during these kinds of training missions. When it does, a team from the accident investigations unit at the Army Combat Readiness Center in Fort Novosel, AL (formerly Fort Rucker), conducts a full investigation. This team comes out for Class A accidents- those that involve a death, permanent disability, or property damage of more than $2 million.
The 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 11th Airborne Division is the “Arctic Angels” and also serves as the home for Arctic Aviation. The remote nature of their installation and the harsh cold weather that accompanies their duty station make it a difficult place to call home. Yet these soldiers do it, and they are the best at what they do.
Unfortunately, a skid and roll accident with an LMTV is not uncommon. The vehicles are incredibly top-heavy. While the Army authorizes troops to ride in the back with little more than their brain bucket and the troop strap across the back to “keep them in,” nothing is securing them to the vehicle. Given the lack of nimble steering, or grip on the road with the massive knobby tires, this vehicle is a recipe for rolling when sliding.
Having only two deaths in an accident of this magnitude, with this vehicle, and in a location like this is incredible. These troops weren’t operating in the safest vehicle in the military, and their gear was known to meet only the minimum of requirements and to be of the lowest cost. They were conducting troop movements in a difficult area of the globe, and the area of Alaska they were in had already received snow. This means the freeze-thaw-freeze cycle is on, but not for long. Unfortunately, it makes paved and unpaved roads unpredictable, even if going slow for the conditions.
For now, condolences and prayers to the families and loved ones of SPC Evans and SPC Snowden. May they rest easy.