Continuing a troubling trend, an AH-64 Apache helicopter assigned to Joint Base Lewis-McChord crashed during a training exercise in Washington, the fifth mishap involving an Army or National Guard helicopter in 2023.
The incident occurred on the night of May 13 at Yakima Training Center, a sprawling training range in the center of the state. Two soldiers, both assigned to the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, were injured in the crash and taken to nearby Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital for treatment. Both have since been released and the crash is under investigation.
“Our number one priority at this time is ensuring our pilots receive the medical care they need, while simultaneously caring for their families,” said Col. Derek Smith, the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade commander, in a statement.
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It’s the latest in a series of Army aviation crashes in 2023, three of which were fatal.
On April 27, three soldiers were killed and a fourth injured when two AH-64 Apache helicopters from the 1st Attack Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright Alaska collided and crashed while returning from a routine training mission.
In March, nine soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division were killed when two HH-60 Black Hawk helicopters crashed during a nighttime training event near Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
In February, a Tennessee Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during a training sortie over Huntsville, Alabama, killing two soldiers.
And two soldiers were injured in February when their AH-64 Apache helicopter rolled over during takeoff at Talkeetna Airport in Alaska.
Before the latest crash, the spate of accidents had left 14 soldiers dead and three injured.
The Army ordered a 24-hour stand down and grounded all non-essential flights on April 28.
“The safety of our aviators is our top priority, and this stand down is an important step to make certain we are doing everything possible to prevent accidents and protect our personnel,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said at the time. “During this stand down, we will focus on safety and training protocols to ensure our pilots and crews have the knowledge, training and awareness to safely complete their assigned mission.”
During that stand down, all active duty Army aviators were to conduct a review of flight mission briefing, in addition to maintenance training. According to an Army spokesperson, both soldiers involved in the latest crash had completed that additional training.
A team of investigators has been deployed from Fort Novosel, Alabama and will investigate the latest crash, according to the Army.
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