Officials at the Army’s Fort Jackson in South Carolina have suspended weapons immersion training a week after a trainee allegedly went AWOL with his unloaded rifle and hijacked a school bus.
The base is the largest basic training facility of the U.S. military, and weapons immersion training teaches recruits the fundamentals about using their firearms.
“We truly regret this incident and the effect it is having on our community,” the base commander, Brig. Gen. Milford Beagle Jr., said in a statement. “I have spoken with Dr. Davis, to express my desire to meet with the parents of the children so I can personally share my concerns for them. I want to answer their questions and let them know we are taking actions to prevent this from happening again.”
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He was referring to Dr. Baron R. Davis, the superintendent of Richland School District Two, whose students were the children aboard the bus.
The statement said Fort Jackson would place the weapons immersion training on pause as it investigates the hijacking.
“Although we knew there was no ammunition in the weapon, we acknowledge that others did not know that fact,” the base said. “Our goal is to determine how this happened and what actions are needed to prevent it in the future.”
As Fox News has reported, Pvt. Jovan Collazo allegedly abandoned the fort three weeks into basic combat training – carrying his government-issued M-4 when he hopped a barbwire fence and snuck off into the woods.
He later boarded a school bus packed with kids, according to authorities, in an alleged attempt to return home to New Jersey while suffering from “anxiety.”
The Army said he never had any access to ammunition, because trainees don’t visit the firing range until their fourth week – and even then, they’re patted down on the way out to ensure they’re not carrying any away from the area.
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After a short time on the packed bus, Collazo let 18 elementary-age students and the driver out of the vehicle safely, according to investigators.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department arrested him soon after that, and he had abandoned the gun and the bus by that time, according to investigators.
The Army is also conducting an investigation into the matter of its own.
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The AWOL incident happened shortly after an Army drill sergeant at the base went viral on social media in video berating a neighbor. He has been arrested in connection with the incident for allegedly shoving the victim and was relieved from training duties.
The Army said civilian courts would handle the case but left open the opportunity for internal discipline in the future.