President Barack Obama offered condolences and praise to the community of Fort Hood following the death of nine soldiers in a flood during a training exercise.
Obama spoke by phone on Monday with Maj. Gen. John Thomson, 1st Cavalry Division commander. The White House says Obama sent his sympathies to the families of those killed and thanked the general and first responders for the search and recovery operation.
The White House says the incident is a reminder of the “tremendous risks” related to military operations and that the U.S. owes a debt to its troops for their sacrifices.
Fort Hood officials are also working closely with local relief organizations and agencies to determine where additional help and supplies are needed to assist the families of the soldiers who died Thursday.
“Fort Hood has received an enormous outpouring of donation support from our local and national communities,” said Col. Todd Fox, Fort Hood garrison commander. “Currently, public donations to assist Fort Hood families affected by the tragedy are being accepted by the Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare & Recreation and the American Red Cross.”
Eight active-duty soldiers and a West Point military cadet died in the training accident involving an Army truck, known as a light medium tactical vehicle. Twelve soldiers were on the truck when it overturned in Owl Creek along East Range Road in Fort Hood’s training area.
Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez, Spc. Christine Faith Armstrong, Spc. Yingming Sun, Pfc. Brandon Austin Banner, Pfc. Zachery Nathaniel Fuller, Pvt. Isaac Lee Deleon, Pvt. Eddy Raelaurin Gates, Pvt. Tysheena Lynette James and Cadet Mitchell Alexander Winey all died in the incident, according to the news release from the Fort Hood Public Affairs Office.
On Thursday, Fort Hood officials said the soldiers were part of the 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.
The three surviving soldiers who were treated for injuries sustained during the accident were released from Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center to be with their families and were cleared to return to duty, said Maj. Gen. John Uberti, Fort Hood deputy commander, on Friday.
“Again, I’d like to offer my heartfelt and sincerest condolences to the family and friends who have lost one of their loved ones,” Uberti said.
U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, R-Austin, said on Thursday that “I’m saddened to hear of the tragedy at Fort Hood today. My heartfelt condolences go out to the families of our brave soldiers. The men and women of our Army are our country’s best and brightest. And every day we are reminded of how much they mean to us. The Great Place is a strong community and our thoughts and prayers go out to all of Fort Hood tonight.”
In a statement Saturday, U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, said he and his wife continue to pray for the families, soldiers and Fort Hood family.
“Erika and I continue to pray for the families, the soldiers and the entire Fort Hood family. The Great Place has suffered a devastating loss,” Carter said. “The men and women at Fort Hood are truly a blessing to our great nation, and I know our military is resilient and strong.
“This tragedy illuminates the inherent risks our soldiers take every day, outside of the spotlight, day in and day out, across our country in preparation for war. I am honored to call the men and women at Fort Hood my neighbor. God bless their memory, God bless their families and God bless our country.”
Killeen Mayor Jose Segarra ordered city of Killeen flags to half-staff in honor of the soldiers, which started Sunday.
“In times of tragedy, the bond between city and fort is ever present and we stand ready to assist in the days to come,” Segarra said Friday.
During a news conference Friday morning, Chris Haug, III Corps media relations chief, said the soldiers were training on the range Thursday with convoy operations and were already trained on how to operate the vehicle.
“It’s a situation where the rain had come,” Haug said. “The water was rising quickly, and we were in the process at the moment of the event of closing the roads.”
Families seeking information for help should call the Fort Hood Family Assistance Center at 254-288-7570 or 866-836-2751. For more information from the Red Cross, please call 254-200-4400 or visit www.waco.redcross.org.
Fort Hood Public Affairs will release more information as it becomes available.
Details on the victims can be found at kdhnews.com/military.
The Associated Press, Rachael Riley, Clay Thorp and Don Munsch contributed to this report.