Grenade accident
prompts changes

Safety measures are added
after a soldier's training death

By Gregg K. Kakesako

The Army has decided not to punish anyone involved in the hand grenade training accident last April that resulted in the death of one Schofield Barracks soldier and injured three others, including a key leader.

An Army investigative report was unable to determine how Army Spec. David G. Rubic was killed April 14 when a M67 fragmentation grenade exploded in his hand during a late night trench clearing exercise at Schofield Barracks' Kolekole Range 5.

The report, which was only released through a Freedom of Information Act request, said the most likely explanation for Rubic's death was that he unintentionally "milked" the grenade by loosening his grip on the safety lever, causing it to explode prematurely.

As a result of Rubic's death, Maj. Gen. Eric Olson, 25th Division commander, has implemented a hand grenade policy for all Hawaii units before they conduct any live fire exercise, said Capt. Stacy Bathrick, Army spokeswoman.

These changes include instructing soldiers about the dangers of "milking" a grenade -- something that was not done before the April 14 accident.

Bathrick also said that before any live ammunition or grenades are used each soldier will have to throw at least one practice grenade on the actual terrain or similar environment that will be used in the exercise.

At the time of the accident, which occurred just before midnight, Rubic was lying flat on his back parallel to the trench, boot-to-boot with his partner wearing night-vision goggles and holding a grenade next to his chest and flak jacket.

The Army said that if a grenade's safety lever is allowed to rise 37.5 degrees after the safety clip and pin has been removed, it's possible that the grenade's striker can rotate and strike the primer even while the grenade is being held. Rubic apparently took two deep breaths and then lifted his left arm to toss the grenade when it exploded, the Army report says.

Bathrick said soldiers will be instructed that "if pressure on the safety lever is relaxed after the safety clip and safety pin have been removed, it is possible that the striker can rotate and strike the primer while the thrower is still holding the grenade.

"This is called 'milking' the grenade. Thrower must be instructed to maintain enough pressure on the safety lever so that the striker cannot rotate."

Soldiers also will be instructed not to "cook off" a grenade, where the safety lever is released and the soldier holds the grenade for two seconds and then tosses it.

Among the injured were Lt. Col. Thomas P. Guthrie, 39, from Annapolis, Md., the commander of the 2nd Battalion, 27th Infantry; and Capt. Mark C. Houston, 29, who commands A Company and is from Delmar, N.Y.

Neither leader was singled out for any administrative or disciplinary action, Bathrick said. Both remain in their current leadership positions. Nor were any other soldier disciplined, she added.

Also injured in the April accident was Pvt. Adam Newton, 20, an infantryman assigned to A Company from Clayton, N.Y., who suffered leg wounds.

Besides "milking" the grenade, other possible causes cited by the report included Rubic dropping the grenade, the safety lever coming off or a defective or premature fuse. Each of these causes were rejected by the report.

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