An Army truck known as a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle or LMTV is seen being loaded onto a railcar at Fort Hood in 2014.

Courtesy photo

The widow of Staff Sgt. Miguel Angel Colonvazquez and other family members, are disputing the results of an investigation of the June 2, truck rollover accident that claimed the lives of eight soldiers and a West Point cadet at Fort Hood.

Ngo T. Pham, the widow of Colonvazquez, said her husband should not be held responsible for the accident and provided the Killeen Daily Herald with the Article 15-6 investigation results. The investigation blames the accident on a series of decisions made by Colonvazquez, a combat veteran who also died when the Army truck he and the others were in overturned while crossing Fort Hood’s Owl Creek during a flash flood.

Pham said she has waited for nearly a year for the results of the investigation, only to find out that it placed much of the blame on her husband.

“I just want everyone to know that his leadership failed him that day, and he served his country every day faithfully and loyally,” Pham said. “He was a staff sergeant, and he always did what the Army told him.”

Pham said her husband was not authorized to change the training plan and was following the orders he received, which called for taking the convoy over the creek crossing and not the bridge.

“He followed protocol, and they (leadership) failed him, and not only him but eight other soldiers,” Pham said.

Pham said her husband cared deeply for his soldiers, would never put their lives at risk and refutes the findings in the report.

“My husband and I always had barbecues for the soldiers. They were like our family,” Pham said. “My husband loved them.” Pham said she and her husband have three daughters.

Pham said her husband believed barbecues at their home in Killeen were instrumental in building camaraderie in order to build friendship and trust that would be needed later during deployments, a tradition she continues with the survivors and other soldiers since her husband died.

Pham said other soldiers involved with the training that day specifically told her that her husband tried to persuade his leadership to change the training because of the bad weather, but were instructed to proceed with the training as planned. Pham said she was informed by a soldier that this supervisor was still assigned to 3rd Battalion, 16th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, the unit of the soldiers involved in the accident.

At 5:05 a.m. the day of the accident, Fort Hood’s Range Operations and the Installation Operations Center issued a low-water crossing report that said all the creeks, low-water crossings and mid-water crossings were off-limits to vehicle, according to the investigations officers report given to the family.

This information was not distributed to Colonvazquez’s unit, the report said.

At 8:47 a.m., the National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Fort Hood area, according to the report.

Colonvazquez’s unit left the battalion motor pool at 10:20 a.m., the report said.

The report stated Colonvazquez made three key decisions that led to the crash: The first decision was to lead the convoy off the paved road onto the tank trail. The second decision was to continue along the tank trail even after crossing the two large pools. The third decision was to try crossing Owl Creek at the low-water crossing point instead of using the nearby bridge. The use of the bridge, the investigation emphasized, “would have prevented the accident.”

The report also recommended that three leaders associated with the unit receive a General Officer Memorandum of Reprimand for negligence of duties. Those leaders, whose names were blacked out in the report, were not with the convoy when the accident occurred because it was considered “Sergeant’s Time Training,” a chance for senior sergeants to do practical, hands-on training with junior enlisted soldiers.

The investigation cited the three leaders for not doing more ahead of time to reduce the risks to the patrol considering the weather conditions and the inexperience of the young soldiers.

Pham said she wants her husband’s leadership to admit they made a bad decision that caused the life of her husband and the other eight soldiers.

“At least I’m speaking up for my husband and not only for him, but the other soldiers and their families as well,” Pham said. “If his leaders can admit they made a piss-poor decision and cost the life of nine soldiers, it might bring other leaders to be more aware of the decisions they make and how it affects their soldiers lives.”

jdouglas@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

(4) comments

Dr Strangelove

STAN RANT: Sergeant’s Time: I remember when “Sergeant’s Time” first came out and it was a good thing. Sergeant’s Time was created so Sergeants could train their Soldiers/Troopers skills that they lacked in. A Sergeant knows which skills his people lack. When it first started it was good; then they came up with the first rule—you cannot train your Soldiers/Troopers Common Tasks during Sergeant’s Time. WHAT! At that time I worked at Division HQ in the Division Signal Office. After PT my people from 0900 to 1700 hrs. were in the Office. The only time I could train them Common Tasks was during Sergeant’s Time—they took that away.

Next thing you know the Officer Corps took over Sergeant’s Time; oh still the same name but Sergeants were no longer in charge of the training. So when Common Task Testing was coming up I had my people come in on Saturdays for training. Went back down on line Sergeant’s Time was Team Drills, Team Drills, Team Drills…! It would be submitted to S-3 for the Training Schedule. They need to stop calling it “Sergeant’s Time.” Start calling it, “Officers Telling Sergeants What To Do Time.”

Now they’re blaming a Staff Sergeant who cannot speak for himself—we all know this is Army BS-Cover-up to cover some Officer’s ass!

DawgDave

Another whitewashing by the Army. The NCO died in the incident, we can't ask him what went wrong, so let's just blame him and be done with it. The military is getting real good at this sort of thing. Anyone remember Pat Tillman? The idiots in charge should have cancelled the training when it became apparent that flash flood warnings had been issued. I've spoken to many vets about this incident, mostly retirees. We all agree - typical army b.s.

OldWoman
OldWoman

Hindsight is always 20/20 and this was a horrible event. I hesitate to call it an accident. Not being privy to the documents of the investigation, but I, unfortunately, tend to instinctively agree with the US Army findings.
I remember that weekend. Everyone I know was checking the weather radars constantly, waiting for the big downpour. And yes, a flash flood warning/watch was issued.
Anyone who has been in this area for more than one flash flood, knows that you DO NOT cross the low lying areas, like Cowhouse or Owl Creek. In my opinion, without knowing the details, even if he received a direct order to cross there at that time, it would have been his duty to refuse to obey the order and protect his crew's life. The odds in a flash flood are always against the vehicle, no matter it's size or weight. My heart goes out to all the soldiers who lost their lives in this incident, and blaming anyone in this incident is truly a blame game, but we DO need to learn form this experience, and make flash flood crossings a mandatory training item. The lesson is short. "No matter what you are told or ordered, Do NOT ever cross a flooded path, unless during war time to save your soldiers' lives (meaning the odds are already against you.)" End of training, to be repeated in formation or posted in big letters in every building entrance - make it mandatory. And teach everybody.

Turnsue

I CAN'T believe they can be this cowardly and go as far as blaming a soldier that CAN'T speak for himself!! I can't believe this!! As many mistakes that Ft Hood has made when a loved one passes away, now they want to play the blame game.. OK... LET'S PLAY IT!! WHY, WHEN MY SISTER PASSED AWAY SUPPOSEDLY ON SEPTEMBER 13TH AT WHO KNOWS WHAT TIME, 1 SOMETHING IN THE MORNING, 2014, WHY DID FT HOOD CASUALTY CALL ME AT 12:05 AM TO GIVE ME CONDOLENCES WHEN WE WERE STILL BEING TOLD SHE WAS ALIVE AND WHY DID I FIND AN OBUTUARY THAT SAID SHE DIED ON THE 12TH? I MEAN, ISN'T THAT SUPPOSED TO BE CORRECT INFO??? AND EVEN NOW WE HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN PROOF OF HER CAUSE OF DEATH BUT I SURE CAN PROVE REASON OF DOUBT EVEN JUST WITH THIS, 1/8 INFO WE HAVE??

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.