Army investigating fatal shooting of soldier during live-fire field-training exercise

Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) practice warfighting on the Donnelly Training Area last month. (Photo courtesy of the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team)

Army investigators have begun looking into the circumstances surrounding last weekend’s death of a soldier from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson during a field-training exercise on a range near Fort Greely. But, investigators aren’t saying much about the case.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman John Pennell says an investigation into the death of a 20-year-old infantryman during a training exercise near Fort Greely is well under way.

“There are multiple levels of investigation that are ongoing,” he said, “including investigations by U.S. Army Alaska, by the Army Criminal Investigation Division and also by the Army Safety Center.”

Spc. Nicholas DiMona died early Saturday morning after being shot while his unit was maneuvering during a live-fire exercise at the Donnelly Training Area, Pennell said.

“The soldiers were attacking toward an objective … so the soldiers were maneuvering as they were firing,” Pennell said.

Visibility was limited when DiMona sustained the fatal gunshot.

“It was early in the morning on Saturday, so it was in the dark,” Pennell said.

But he says the soldiers with the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) out of JBER were acquainted with the training area and the scenario.

“The unit had been through numerous rehearsals, including daytime and nighttime drills with blank ammunition and also with live ammunition,” Pennell said.

But that’s about all Pennell would say Wednesday about the incident, citing the ongoing investigation. He declined to say where in the Donnelly Training Area the exercise was being conducted and what type of weapon killed DiMona. But he noted that several types of firearms were being used. And he says all personnel quickly responded after the soldier was hit.

“Once the incident happened, all training immediately stopped,” Pennell said, “and the unit focus was then obviously on providing emergency medical care for the soldier until we could get him evacuated to Fairbanks Memorial (Hospital).”

Pennell says Army personnel flew DiMona to Fairbanks in a helicopter that’s kept on stand-by during training exercises. But emergency personnel at the hospital declared DiMona dead. Pennell says the 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team soldiers have since been working with investigators sort out what happened. He declined to estimate when they’ll wrap up their work.

“It’ll take as long as it takes for us to figure out what happened, why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening in the future,” Pennell said.

Pennell says combat is inherently dangerous, and so is realistically training for it. But he says the Army does all it can to make those exercises as safe as possible.