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Airman dies in parachute training jump

A pilot's view of Edwards Air Force Base, in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. [U.S. Air Force/Released]
September 13, 2019

There has been an uptick in special operations parachute deaths this year, and the latest among them is Staff Sgt. Adam Erickson, who died Tuesday.

Erickson lost his life during a parachute training accident the U.S. Air Force said in a press release Wednesday. The accident occurred during a routine military proficiency jump.

“We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss. Adam touched many lives during his time here and our hearts and prayers go out to his family, friends and coworkers,” said Brig. Gen. E. John Teichert, commander, 412th Test Wing.

Erickson, who joined the Air Force in November 2011, was an evasion, survival, resistance and escape airman. He was assigned to the 412th Operations Support Squadron at Edwards and served as the non-commissioned officer in charge for SERE operations and training, according to the Air Force Times.

He had received the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

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The military saw a record number for airborne-related deaths in 2015, according to Military Times but saw a sharp decline in 2016 and 2017. Five died in 2015, one died in 2016 and another in 2017. Deaths rose again in 2018.

Sgt. Maj. Christopher Nelms, who was a part of the elite Delta Force organization, was one of several airborne-related deaths in 2018.

Training shortfalls and lapsed qualifications contributed to some of the deaths over the past decade, and in some cases, the overconfidence of operators and trainers also played a part, according to a review of accident investigations by Military Times.

“Being ‘special’ shouldn’t be an excuse to cut corners or accept needless risk in either training or operations,” an anonymous retired senior special operations officer told Military Times in 2016.

Moreover, the U.S. military has seen a number of other accidents recently.

Army Specialist Clayton James Horne, 23, died after falling off a tower while serving in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 17.

He died from “wounds sustained by a noncombat related incident,” according to a Defense Department press release.

That same day, Air Force Capt. Tranay Lashawn Tanner, 29, died of health complications following a standard physical training test.

Serious injuries have also occurred in recent months.

In July, a Marine was paralyzed during a live-fire training exercise at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms.