Special Operations Soldier killed, several injured in Fort Polk training accident
A soldier assigned to 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne), Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was killed, and 12 others were wounded, during a training incident at Fort Polk, Louisiana, May 15, 2019.
Staff Sgt. Jacob A. Hess, 34, of Belton, Missouri, died of injuries sustained during training at the Joint Readiness Training Center.
"On behalf of the Soldiers and Families of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, I extend my deepest condolences and sympathy to Staff Sgt. Hess' Family," said Col. Charles R. Burnett, commander of the 95th CA Bde. "Jacob's character and professionalism display his dedication and service to the brigade and its mission."
Burnett added, "Jacob was a talented noncommissioned officer and dedicated member of the brigade. He will be greatly missed by those who had the great fortune and opportunity to know him."
Hess was born in Shawnee Mission, Kansas, on May 20, 1984. He graduated from Grandview Senior High School in 2003 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2004.
He attended Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. His first assignment was with 129th Transportation Company in New Century, Kansas.
After a year in the Army Reserves, he reclassified and enlisted in the Active Army and was assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where he served as a heavy equipment operator and later as a squad leader. He deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2007-2008, and again from 2009-2010.
His next assignment was with 561st Engineer Company at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, where he served as a squad leader and company operations sergeant. In 2013, Hess completed the Civil Affairs Qualification Course and was assigned to 97th Civil Affairs Battalion, 95th CA Bde., as a Civil Affairs noncommissioned officer.
While assigned to 97th CA Bn., Hess participated in Joint Combined Exchange Training in South Korea and Indonesia. He also served as a member of the Civil Military Support Element in Cambodia.
Hess is a graduate of Airborne School, Combat Life Savers Course, Route Reconnaissance and Clearance Course, Basic Leader Course, Master Driver Trainer Course, Advanced Leader Course, Airload Planner Course, Automated Airload Planner Course, Army Combatives Course Level 1, Civil Affairs Assessment and Selection, Senior Leader Course, Chinese-Mandarin Special Operations Language Course, Civil Affairs Qualification Course, Mobile Force Protection Course, and Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Course.
His awards and decorations include the Army Commendation Medal (fourth award), Army Achievement Medal (sixth award), Meritorious Unit Citation, Navy Unit Citation, Army Good Conduct Medal (fourth award), National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star (second award), Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Korean Defense Service Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon (third award), Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon (third award), Parachutist Badge, and Italian Airborne Wings.
He was posthumously awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.
The wounded soldiers sustained non-life threatening injuries, and are assigned to 95th CA Bde., 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, and 72nd Military Police Company, Nevada Army National Guard, in Las Vegas. All service members involved were evaluated and screened for injuries.
The incident remains under investigation by the U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center, headquartered at Fort Rucker, Alabama.
"Safety is paramount in all that we do," said Brig. Gen. William Burks, Nevada National Guard adjutant general. "We train as we fight and unfortunately, accidents occur during realistic training in dynamic environments. Our sympathies go out to the family of the individual that was killed. We are closely monitoring this situation and hope for a speedy recovery to those who were injured."
“We are saddened to hear of the tragic training accident that took the life of one of our soldiers," said U.S. Representative Mike Johnson. "Every single member of our military, whether here at home or abroad, makes immeasurable sacrifices in service to our nation. We pray for Staff Sgt. Hess’ family and friends and for the quick recovery of those who were injured. We owe all of our service members a debt we can never repay.”