RNA - The casualties represent a slight increase over 2018, when 18 soldiers died and 66 were injured in training accidents.
"Military training is inherently dangerous, and while any loss of life is tragic, it is difficult to reduce the numbers to zero," retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, who directs the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, Told the Washington Examiner.
"Military aviation, operating vehicles over open terrain at night, weapons firing with live ammunition are among the military skills that must be practiced but carry high risks. A rise from 18 to 20 training deaths in a year, while unfortunate, is not a statistically significant rise," he added.
The slight increase coincides with the army's efforts to improve combat readiness across the force. The Pentagon placed an emphasis on combat capability after the administration of President Donald Trump published its national defense strategy, which aims to counter conventional adversaries such as Russia and China.
Rigorous training is necessary in order to confront US adversaries, according to former army pilot Bradley Bowman, who runs the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"America’s ability to deter and defeat great power adversaries depends on the readiness of our forces. That is impossible without tough and realistic training," Bowman told The Washington Examiner, saying, "The challenge for army leaders is to provide training opportunities that simulate real combat as closely as possible while keeping soldier safety as a top priority. That is easier said than done.”
The 20 soldiers killed in the past year died in a variety of accidents. West Point cadet Christopher Morgan, 22, died and 22 others were injured when their truck crashed in June. Army Staff Sgt. David Gallagher, 51, was killed and three others were injured when their M1 Abrams tank rolled over earlier that month. Staff Sgt. Jacob Hess, 34, was killed in a similar accident when his Humvee rolled over in May.
The most recent training fatality occurred on Tuesday, when Master Sgt. Nathan Goodman, 36, died in a free-fall parachuting accident in Arizona. Goodman was a Green Beret who was awarded the master military free-fall parachutist badge for his expertise in high-altitude jumps.
While training casualties may be unavoidable, Bowman stated that each incident "deserves a thorough investigation in order to learn the appropriate lessons and prevent training casualties in the future".
Overall, mishaps went down from 56 to 50. The number of training deaths was slightly below the 22 troops killed in Afghanistan in 2019.