OT: Army: Human error caused artillery to blast civilian property (TX)

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Army: Human error caused artillery shells to blast civilian property

By RICHARD L. SMITH Tri bune-Herald staff writer

FORT HOOD  U.S. Army officials say human error caused 12 artillery shells to accidentally fall on civilian property in Coryell County.

A prepared statement from Fort Hood officials released Tuesday evening said the completion of a formal investigation is pending which will determine if changes are needed in artillery training on the post. The investigation will also determine if any disciplinary charges are warranted.

Officials said an improper compass reading was fed into a computer of a Paladin 155-millimeter self-propelled howitzer Wednesday evening. The cannon was being fired by members of a field artillery battalion of the 1st Cavalry Division. A 155-millimeter howitzer has a barrel 155 millimeters  or about six inches  in diameter and can fire a shell between 14-18 miles.

The computer changed the howitzer's firing direction to a northwesterly direction and fired 11 high explosive rounds and one illumination round. The latter shell lights up the sky. The shells landed about 9:30 p.m. Jan. 26 near several homes in the small community of King, about nine miles southwest of Gatesville, Fort Hood officials said. Residents there said the shells were fired from the Army post, about 71/2 miles away.

King residents called 9-1-1 and Fort Hood military police were then contacted. A Fort Hood game warden was dispatched to the King area about 11 p.m. Officials said the game warden did not find any physical evidence that evening and authorities began investigating the incident the next morning. Fort Hood officials said the timeliness of the military's response to the initial complaint is also part of the continuing formal investigation.

The rounds struck near four homes on the ranch of Robert Shoaf, who said it caused damage to several of those homes.

Leola Shoaf, 70, a sister-in-law of Robert Shoaf, lives on adjoining property. She said three shells struck her property  one which landed 300 yards from her house.

"When it they started coming over the house, my son was in the barn with the horses," she said. "We thought somebody was trying to run into our house. The horses were bouncing off the fences. It scared me to death."

Shells also hit the property of two other owners, she said.

The howitzer rounds left craters about six feet across and also damaged trees on Leona Shoaf's property.

She said Army officials were at her home Tuesday explaining that the cause of the misfires was human error. Although Shoaf said she understands, she remains concerned.

"There's going to be humans handling (the howitzers) again," she said. "Will this happen again?"

Fort Hood officials said Army lawyers have visited the property owners to expedite handling of their claims.

Artillery firing remains suspended at the large Army post pending resolution of the investigation. Fort Hood officials said the battalion responsible for the accident is no longer allowed to fire its guns until members have completed retraining and recertification for live firing.

-- Homer Beanfang (Bats@inbellfry.com), February 02, 2000


Such things occasionally happen, but how this crew could fire ELEVEN rounds before they realized they weren't coming near the target is beyond me. Whoever was in charge needs to give a accounting for his negligence.


-- gene (ekbaker@essex1.com), February 02, 2000.

In the bad old days artillery missions included a spotter observing the hits-- in a light plane or a church tower or on a hill with a view or just a guy in the bush near the target area. Firing blind seems wasteful if nothing else.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), February 02, 2000.

The unit (according to my bros) were from the 7th Cav, 2nd or 1st battalion. Also called the "Division Cav" for the 1st Cav Division, the Seventh has a proud history of getting it's ass handed to it on a regular basis throughout history...(remember Custer?) Sounds like these jokers are continuing in a long and proud tradition of screwing up.

-- Billy Boy (Rakkasan101st@Aol.com), February 02, 2000.

That's a fact, Jack!

-- Powder (Powder47keg@aol.com), February 02, 2000.

A prepared statement from Fort Hood officials released Tuesday evening said the completion of a formal investigation is pending which will determine if changes are needed in artillery training on the post...

Aiming, perhaps?

-- I'm Here, I'm There (I'm Everywhere@so.beware), February 02, 2000.

...Like our readiness isn't already scraping the bottom right now..."Lets see... the men fired into civilian areas, hmmm. I know! We'll use simulators instead!"

Now for all of you out there who think I'm kidding, sadly I'm not. I was a victi...err...member of the 1st Cavalry Division up until last March. This is the same reject unit that had the Division Commander (General LaPorte) almost get cashiered for expending almost 10 million in funds to ship a 'war trophy' rock back from Camp Eagle in Bosnia after the deployment. That 10 mil was slated to improve barracks life, and overall quality of life in the Division, but I guess LaPorte felt the money was better spent on a fucking boulder with the Cav emblem painted on it. You'd think that the sorry prick coulda picked any rock out in the North Fort Hood area...but noooo...He's gotta have the "real deal" from Bosnia so's to show how "Billy-Bad-Ass" the Cav is.

Let me expain something. In 97 I suffered a traumatic neck injury that pretty much ended the Airborne-Hardcore aspect of my career. I was 'put out to pasture' at Ft. Hoodwink. I spent a total of ten years serving Unca Sugar in many ways and forms, and let me tell ya, the Fort Hood Army, especially the 1str Cav Division, was the worst experience I ever had, Including Basic training!!! The Leadership, (if you wish to call it that) spend more time covering their asses and performing the "politically correct" parts of army life. The NCO's for the most part consisted of either 2year term instant E-5s (Sgts) or 18year ROAD (retired-on-active-duty) E-7s (Sgt first class) Very few members of the NCO corp at the Hood cared for anything more than to get out of Hood. 1st Cav Division regularly was awarded the highest retention award for re-enlistment and retention of soldiers. No shit Jack. The only way one left Ft Hood was to re-enlist for somewhere else. People used to volunteer for Korean Duty (the bane of Army existance) rather than spend more time in the Cav!!! Moral in the unit is shot, there are no experienced mid-term NCOs left, and the officers, as seen by the highest level, are a Clinton-level Micromanaging corrupt bunch of CYA only officer who don't give a damn about the NCOs or the EMs.

No wonder this happened. And you can bet that the guy who gets the blame isn't the Officer in Charge of the Battery, but the poor sonofabitch NCO or EM who hit the wrong button on the calculator. Just by the press releases, the Cav is back in the saddle, covering ass, and taking names.

-- Billy Boy (Rakkasan101st@Aol.com), February 02, 2000.

Bring on the Chinese. We will show those pussies a thing or two.

-- JB (noway@jose.com), February 02, 2000.

I posted the local (Killeen) daily paper's coverage of the incident at this thread (hope the link works =) Link

Billy Bob, I know many many soldiers in 1CAV @ Hood - you are 100 percent correct. Most of them would rather be anywhere but there. Kind of a sad state of affairs, don't you think? Re: Korea - it seems it's become mandatory for soldiers to serve at least one tour of duty there - two, if they're "lucky" enough. Either that, or Kuwait or Kosovo. Not really much to choose from =)

-- hiding (behind@large.rock.uprange), February 02, 2000.

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