A few weeks before Mother’s Day, Corwin “Mario” Burrowes logged onto his Instagram account to post a touching tribute to his mother.
He plucked lyrics from Tupac’s song “Dear Mama” and placed them on his favorite picture of the matriarch, who cheered through his high school football games and prayed for his safety when he was deployed.
“Why wait until Mother’s Day?” he typed under the picture.
It was simple, yet his love overflowed from the post. The words linger as his mother pauses to remember everything about her son, who was killed in a Humvee crash on Fort Bragg last week.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170517/mother-remembers-loving-son-soldier-killed-in-humvee-crash
The soldier killed in a crash between a Humvee and a tractor-trailer on Fort Bragg on Thursday was a 24-year-old special operations combat medic, according to Army officials.
Maj. Beth Riordan, a spokeswoman for 1st Special Forces Command, declined to release the soldier’s name. The soldier, from Columbus, Georgia, was assigned to the 528th Sustainment Brigade, 1st Special Forces Command, she said.
Two other soldiers in the Humvee, also assigned to the 528th Sustainment Brigade, were injured in the crash. The driver of the tractor-trailer, James Wilhelm, of Fayetteville, was not injured.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170512/soldiers-involved-in-humvee-crash-were-traveling-to-training-exercise
The driver who fatally struck a soldier during early morning physical training in October said the soldier wasn’t running in formation, there were no guards to block off roads and the soldier’s reflective belt wasn’t visible until it was on her windshield.
“I never saw another person on the road,” the driver said, just hours after the crash on Oct. 24. “The runner must have been out in the median as I was traveling towards Canopy and away from Reily (sic) and she came from the left. I never saw a reflective belt or any other reflective device until contact was made.”
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/news/20170413/army-investigation-soldier-fatally-struck-during-pt-failed-to-yield-to-traffic
Army investigators have determined the death of a Mexican paratrooper during a training exercise at Fort Bragg last summer was accidental.
Arturo Godinez-Valenzuela, 31, of Cajeme, Sonora, in northwest Mexico, was killed during the training jump on Sicily Drop Zone on July 14. The paratrooper had become disconnected from his parachute, according to an Army investigation.
“A U.S. Army medic on the ground near the incident location stated Staff Sgt. Godinez-Valenzuela appeared to become disconnected from his parachute about 40 to 50 feet above the ground,” according to the investigation.
The investigation, obtained by The Fayetteville Observer through the federal Freedom of Information Act, includes witness statements and a sketch of the drop zone.
Officials from the Mexican Army and from the Mexican Embassy in Raleigh did not return requests for comment Monday.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/5320886f-bd39-5776-82e8-77ad54326165.html
The death of a Fort Bragg soldier who was hit by a vehicle during training last fall was accidental, investigators have determined.
Sgt. Jalisha Vonshay Tucker, a 24-year-old parachute packer for 3rd Special Forces Group’s Support Battalion, was struck by a vehicle on Yadkin Road near Canopy Lane. She was doing physical training around 6:45 a.m. on Oct. 24 when the accident happened, Army officials have said.
Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command, said special agents worked with the Fort Bragg Military Police Traffic Accident Investigation Section and Provost Marshal’s Office.
The investigation was completed Jan. 5, he said.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/5e29607b-c2d5-5a1a-96e3-6d5ff9db9f5b.html
Teammates could tell Master Sgt. Corey Hood was excited as he prepared to jump into the Chicago Air and Water Show last summer.
Hood, who had deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan five times, had been a member of the Army's elite Golden Knights parachute team for about a year.
The Chicago show was the first time he'd be jumping with members of the Navy's Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs.
About 10 minutes before the demonstration jump, a Navy parachutist chatting with Hood said he was "excited for the jump and he was very alert."
But a series of air miscalculations and several near-misses and a high-speed, mid-air collision caused the 32-year-old parachutist to clip a building in the city and tumble 22 stories to his death.
Although the teams have been jumping together at the Chicago Air and Water Show for 10 years, neither team participating in the Aug. 15, 2015, show had previously worked with the other.
Army investigators said failure by both teams to assess specific risks for working together was among factors contributing to Hood's death.
Investigators reviewed video footage, witness statements and information from unit leadership to compile their report, which was obtained by The Fayetteville Observer through the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Read the story here:
About a week ago, a soldier was killed during an airborne operation on Fort Bragg.
I knew about two hours after the death - one of my best sources called to tell me about it. After that tip, more flooded in to my email and Twitter DM.
I really take pride in the fact that sources know they can trust me with secret information that hasn't been released yet because they know I will be responsible with the information.
I'd heard off the record the soldier who was killed was from the Mexican Army, which was on Fort Bragg training with American paratroopers. Unfortunately, the 82nd Airborne Division clammed up and would only confirm they were investigating an incident (I later learned it's because of all the bureaucratic layers they were dealing with).
A few days after "the incident," the division confirmed a fatality, but that's it.
I immediately went to the country courthouse and searched through death certificates - there it was.
I called the division as a courtesy to explain that I had the soldier's name and other identifiable info from his death certificate and that I was going to write a story for today's paper.
The public affairs officers were quite surprised I was able to get that information so quickly.
From my standpoint as a reporter, it was important to push for this information and advance the story because no one was saying anything and that makes way for rumors to spread. If Army officials won't release information, the next best thing is look for public records that are available.
Again, I was the only reporter in the country to obtain and report that information.
You can read my story here:
Spc. Nicholas Roberts must have known his weapons case didn't feel quite right.
The 27-year-old paratrooper asked the soldier jumping before him if his weapons case was positioned too low. The paratrooper told him to ask a jumpmaster, who is responsible for inspecting equipment before a jump.
The jumpmaster looked at Roberts' weapons case and said it was correct.
Roberts, of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, died during a training jump over Sicily Drop Zone on April 28. Army investigators said improper rigging of his weapons case may have contributed to his death.
An investigation would later show that the jumpmaster team in place that night wasn't properly trained to rig and inspect the weapons case.
Roberts was the 16th jumper on the right door for the second pass of a C-17 during the training jump at Fort Bragg. It was the first time he was jumping at night with all of his equipment.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/improper-rigging-may-have-contributed-to-paratrooper-s-death-at/article_341e1b36-78e2-5549-96cd-3d75b4db1617.html
Sgt. Shaina B. Schmigel was killed after she jumped with a T-11 parachute during a training exercise at Holland Drop Zone on May 30, 2014.
In June 2014, Maj. Gen. John Nicholson, then-commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, ordered an investigation into her death.
The investigation found the most glaring error was the jump master's failure to inspect the static lines of her parachute.
Following her death, that safety was recommended to be permanently decertified from duties as a jump master. That person's name is redacted in the investigative report obtained by The Fayetteville Observer.
Schmigel, 21, was an intelligence analyst with the 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. She joined the Army in 2010 and had been assigned to 2nd Brigade since June 2011.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/paratrooper-s-death-prompts-nd-to-implement-changes-to-airborne/article_79ad956c-fd6b-55f9-a578-dd943d6bff93.html
Less than four seconds after Sgt. Shaina Schmigel jumped from a C-17 as part of a nighttime airborne operation, she was being dragged behind the aircraft. She became entangled in the next jumper's suspension lines and died of severe neck injuries.
Schmigel, 21, was killed after she jumped with a T-11 parachute at Holland Drop Zone on May 30, 2014. An investigation into her death found the most glaring error was the jump master's failure to inspect the static lines of her parachute.
Schmigel was an intelligence analyst with the 37th Engineer Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team. She joined the Army in 2010 and had been assigned to 2nd Brigade since June 2011.
Paratroopers administered first aid when they found her on the ground, but she was declared dead at the drop zone.
Changes in airborne operations were formed from recommendations made by investigators after Schmigel's death, said Master Sgt. Patrick Malone, a spokesman for the 82nd Airborne Division.
"This accident was thoroughly investigated, and the entire airborne community has implemented measures that will mitigate the probability of similar accidents happening in the future," he said. "Airborne operations are inherently high-risk, and we are committed to ensuring they are executed as safely and effectively as possible."
Maj. Gen. John Nicholson, then-commanding general of the 82nd Airborne Division, ordered an investigation into Schmigel's death in June 2014.
The nearly 300-page investigation includes airborne operation briefings and manifests, interviews with witnesses and flight data.
Investigators said there is no evidence that the aircrew, aircraft or weather contributed to Schmigel's death, but there were several areas of negligence that needed to be addressed as safety factors, according to the report obtained by The Fayetteville Observer through the federal Freedom of Information Act.
You can read the story here: http://www.fayobserver.com/military/not-my-baby-girl-investigation-into-paratrooper-death-leads-to/article_2409f636-8eff-5ba6-a3a7-e17d201b04d0.html
Behind the byline
Here's an inside look at how some of my favorite stories came together.