Two 82nd Airborne Paratroopers Die, 5 More Injured in Iraq

U.S. Army Cpt. Andrew Roberts, commander, Battery C, 2nd Battalion, 319th Airborne Field Artillery Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, directs newly arrived paratroopers where to go near Mosul, Iraq, Feb. 5, 2017. Battery C is supporting Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Craig Jensen)

MOSUL, IRAQ – Two 82nd Airborne paratroopers with C Battery, 2-319 AFAR deployed west of Mosul died Sunday when an artillery shell exploded as it was fired from a M777 howitzer. Five more paratroopers were hurt with three medevaced to Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center Hospital to receive treatment, and two more were treated on site and expected to return to duty soon.

According to eyewitnesses the gun in question had fired two counterfire rounds in support of Kurdish forces and was in the process of firing a third when the explosion happened, killing one paratrooper instantly and injuring six more. A second paratrooper would succumb to his injuries soon after. Observers also reported the 2nd round landing short of target prior to the third round being fired.

Next of kin notification was completed last night with the casualty names expected to be released in the next 24 hours.

An investigation to determine the cause of the explosion is underway.

This incident bears some resemblance to a training accident in 2014 when soldiers with 1st Section, 1st Platoon, Bravo Battery, 321st Field Artillery Regiment, 18th Fires Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division conducting a nighttime training exercise with a M777 light-towed howitzer, attempted to ram a second round into their howitzer breech. Without the first round cleared from the tube, that action caused an explosion of powder increment leading to the death of Pfc. James Groth and Sergeants Cory Muzzy and Scott Yeates to be seriously injured.

The 82nd Airborne’s 2nd Brigade has spent about seven months in Iraq, advising the Iraqi forces during the offensive to liberate Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and last major IS stronghold in the country.

The soldiers with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division will replace the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division in the fall, according to an Army news release.