FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — A soldier's failure to account for his possession of live ammunition and unit leaders' failure to conduct brass and ammo checks led to Spc. Kevin J. Rodriguez's death at Fort Campbell, Army documents show.
Rodriguez, a soldier with Company A, 1st Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, "Rakkasans," was participating in a blank-fire training exercise at Range 17 on Oct. 6. Rodriguez was part of the Opposition Force (OPFOR) during the training when another soldier fired his weapon toward Rodriguez. The magazine contained at least three rounds of live ammunition, according to Army documents. Two rounds struck Rodriguez in his chest protector while a third struck his upper left arm and chest area and entered his heart.
The documents are part of the Army's AR 15-6 investigation into the training mishap. They were provided to The Leaf-Chronicle Monday as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in January. All names except for Rodriguez's were redacted in the more than 700 pages of documents provided in the request.
"The proximate cause of Spc. Rodriguez's death was (name redacted)'s failure to account for his possession of ball ammunition on Range 17," the investigation stated. "If he was not aware of it, as an experienced soldier, he should have been."
The investigation continued: "(Name redacted) and other unit leaders' failure to conduct brass and ammo checks were a contributing cause. Simply put, if these checks had been done properly, (name redacted) would not have had ball ammunition on Range 17."
Soldiers arrived at the range for training that morning at 8 a.m. According to a timeline of events, use of opposition forces training was approved at 9:23 a.m. At 9:59, a cease fire was requested. The Fire Desk was then called at 10 a.m. to "check fire for a serious incident as a soldier was injured during training," according to the documents.
By 10:03, an ambulance was in route to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital with Rodriguez. Rodriguez was admitted to BACH at 10:12 a.m. and pronounced dead several minutes later.
Rodriguez was part of a team of four soldiers that made up the opposing force. The team waited behind a mound on the range as the other troops approached, according to the investigation. Rodriguez then fired multiple blank rounds toward one of the soldiers about seven meters away. The other soldier returned fire with "no less than three and no more than five live rounds," three of which struck Rodriguez.
All weapons had blank firing adapters installed, according to the report. Blank firing adapters are placed on the ends of the rifles to designate when blank rounds are being used and to help prevent live rounds from being fired.
Upon hearing the live rounds, the unit relayed to the range control fire desk to initiate a cease-fire on the range. Once Rodriguez was taken to the hospital, the investigation started at the range to find out what happened. Investigators found a destroyed blank firing adapter on the ground at the range and one weapon that did not have its blank firing adapter on the end, according to the documents.
When interviewed, the soldier told investigators that he told others at the range following the shooting he had no magazines remaining. The weapon was also devoid of any magazine, the documents state. If it was true that the soldier had no magazines remaining, it would indicate he emptied all five magazines, or 150 rounds, during the five to six minutes of the training exercise.
"No witnesses reported seeing (name redacted) firing at a rate of fire causing him to expand and discard five magazines or 150 rounds during a relatively short period, particularly as he was focused on directing his team," the investigation stated.
Soldiers were then told to "download" their ammunition at the command post in an attempt to locate any more live ammunition. Investigators later found three brass casings near where Rodriguez was shot that indicated a live round was housed in the casing.
The round matched the AB58 ammunition issued to the unit at Range 36 during a training exercise from Sept. 23-24, according to the investigation, but the investigators could not determine if the soldier "knowingly or unknowingly departed Range 36 with live ammunition."
While at Range 17, the soldier was aware he did have live ammunition, according to documents.
During the course of the investigation, investigators determined that the soldier "lied regarding expending all of his magazines." The soldier "repeatedly told" investigators he had no magazines at the end of the training, but this was found to be "highly unlikely" due to the amount of time the training lasted.
Immediately following the shooting, the soldier attempted to hide his magazine, the documents stated. This was "best explained" in two ways:
- "(Name redacted)'s account purports that three rounds of live ammunition was present in his seventh magazine. No magazine with live rounds was located despite extensive search by the unit. For his account to be true, once (name redacted) fired the live rounds, he would have emptied the magazine. This would have caused the bolt of his weapon to remain locked open; however, according to (name redacted) the weapon was found in the forward position with no magazine in the magazine well. This means someone took a deliberate action to either clear the weapon of an additional live round and drop the magazine or release the bolt forward after it was locked to the rear and drop the magazine. Logically, this was most likely (name redacted) as he appears to be the last one to handle the weapon and magazine prior to (name redacted) arriving.
- "Secondly, (name redacted) became visibly upset following the shooting and was separated from the other soldiers. (Name redacted) was not searched until he arrived at CID (Criminal Investigation Command) several hours later, thereby providing the soldier ample opportunity to dispose of the magazine.
However, while the soldier knew he had live ammunition, the investigation determined the shooting was "preventable" and done "unintentionally."
It listed a lack of brass and ammo checks, loss of supervision, mathematical errors and ammunition supply point procedures that lead to the soldier retaining live ammunition from the Range 36 weeks prior to the shooting. The failure to accurately calculate the "required ammunition and dunnage at time of pickup" following the Range 36 training led to leaders giving a false report of 100 percent of the ammunition accounted for.
"To conclude that better risk management would have prevented the shooting is speculative," the investigation stated.
The report concluded that the soldiers and unit leaders receive "appropriate administrative and disciplinary action" but did not specify what kind of action was taken.
Rodriguez was a private first class at the time of his death. He was promoted to specialist posthumously.
Reach Ray Howze on Twitter @rayhowze1.