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Death Of Northwest Soldier In California Puts Army Training Accidents In Spotlight

U.S. Army

The death of a soldier based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord over the weekend highlights the danger of training for war. Private First Class Andrew Sass was killed Saturday in an incident at the National Training Center in California.

The Army is not releasing details of the death other than to say Sass was killed during a training exercise. Sass’ brigade deployed earlier this month to Ft. Irwin in the Mojave Desert. A promotional video describes the sprawling base as a “world-premier” training facility with live-fire capabilities.

But simulating real war can be dangerous. A soldier from Oregon died last February following a training accident at Ft. Irwin. In 2011, another JBLM soldier was killed and four others injured in a Stryker vehicle rollover accident at the California base.

An investigation is underway into the death of Private Sass. The Army calls him a “husband, warrior and true friend.” The 23-year-old from North Carolina had just joined the Army a year ago. Besides his wife, Sass leaves behind a four-year-old son.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy, as well as the Washington State Legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia."