Questions are being asked after the tragic passing of a second drill operator in Fort Jackson this month.
Staff Sgt. Zachary L. Melton, a drill sergeant with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, was found unresponsive in his vehicle over the weekend after failing to show up for work.
“We are extremely saddened by the loss of Staff Sgt. Melton,” said Fort Jackson’s commander, Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly, according to Newsweek.
“Our thoughts are with his family and the soldiers of the Always Forward battalion during this very emotional time.”
Kelly did not disclose the cause of death, stating that the investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division.
Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Melton was honored with multiple awards and decorations, including the Army Commendation Medal with C device.
He was also awarded the Army Commendation Medal three times.
— New York Post (@nypost) December 19, 2023
Melton is now the second drill sergeant to die at the military base this month.
On Dec, 1, Staff Sgt. Allen Burtram was similarly found dead after failing to report for work, WACH reported. Investigators found no evidence of foul play.
“As a Fort Jackson community, we are mourning the tragic loss of two of our drill sergeants within the past few weeks,” Kelly continued.
“While there are several ongoing investigations into the specifics of each of these deaths, we are taking very deliberate steps to ensure our resiliency resource offerings are adequate and responsive.”
Fort Jackson is one of America’s largest military training centers, with some 45,000 recruits graduating every year.
According to Military.com, the role of “drill sergeant is broadly considered one of the most grueling assignments in the Army, with those noncommissioned officers working long hours, frequently away from their families for extended periods, and sleep deprived.”
“At the same time, those assignments are typically seen as prestigious in the force and can open up career opportunities.”
A study in 2021 by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research found that 19 percent of them suffered from depression, 27 percent had sleep deprivation, and 35 percent reported abusing alcohol.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.