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Florida congressman calls for hearing after 9 service members die in California training accident

Congressman Vern Buchanan has repeatedly called for military training reform.

WASHINGTON — A congressman from Florida is calling for a public Congressional hearing following the deaths of 8 Marines and a Navy Sailor last month during an AAV training accident off the coast of California.

Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Florida, is urging the House Armed Services Committee to hold a public hearing on the military training accidents, stressing the need for reform following a "disturbing rise" in deadly training accidents.

“The loss of a single American soldier is tragic and the continued loss of service members in training accidents is completely unacceptable,” Buchanan wrote in a statement. “We need to get to the bottom of these tragic accidents and enact reforms that will save lives going forward. That’s why I’m calling on the House Armed Services Committee to immediately conduct a public hearing on this important issue.” 

RELATED: Remains of 7 missing Marines, Sailor recovered along with sunken AAV

Credit: KFMB

Congressman Buchanan has been pushing for military training reforms since the separate death of SPC Nicholas Panipinto in 2019.

Panipinto was a soldier from Bradenton. He was killed in a training accident at Camp Humphreys in South Korea last November when the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving overturned during a road test. 

Buchanan says numerous safety and training failures contributed to Panipinto's death. Since June, the congressman has been urging the Department of Defense to reform how it trains soldiers.

According to a 2019 report from the Congressional Research Service, between 2006 to 2018, nearly 32-percent of all soldiers killed overseas died from training accidents. The congressman says that needs to change.

Last month, an amendment to the 2020-2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed the House and moved on to the Senate for consideration. 

That amendment would require the Department of Defense (DoD) to examine emergency response capabilities and services that are currently available at every US military base around the world. The DoD would also need to report to Congress potential benefits and feasibility of requiring bases to have properly functioning MedEvac helicopters and fully-stocked military ambulances. 

“The highest tribute that can be paid to the soldiers lost in training accidents is to enact reforms that ensure that these mistakes never happen again,” Buchanan continued. “We cannot afford to wait any longer and risk the health and safety of our men and women in uniform.”

You can read Congressman Buchana's letter to the House Armed Services Committee here.