Two drill sergeants have been found deceased at Fort Jackson in South Carolina within the past two weeks.
Staff Sgt. Zachary Melton, 30, a drill sergeant with 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, was found unresponsive Saturday inside his vehicle on the base.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
The shocking discovery follows the death of 34-year-old Staff Sgt. Allen Burtram, a drill sergeant with 2nd Battalion 13th Infantry Regiment, who was found deceased on December 8th.
The Army has not released a cause of death for either drill sergeant.
“We are extremely saddened by the loss of Staff Sgt. Melton,” said Fort Jackson’s commander, Brig. Gen. Jason Kelly.
“Our thoughts are with his family and the soldiers of the Always Forward battalion during this very emotional time,” he added.
Second drill sergeant found dead at Fort Jackson within 8 days, Army says https://t.co/jFTrJtA8mL
— Fox News (@FoxNews) December 18, 2023
Per Fox News:
No cause of death was immediately provided, though the Army said the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division is investigating.
Officials said military chaplains and behavioral health personnel are being provided to support members of the unit.
Less than two weeks before Melton’s death, 34-year-old Staff Sgt. Allen Burtram was found dead on the base after he had failed to report to work, the Columbia Post and Courier reported.
Officials had said Burtram’s death was also being investigated, though there were no signs of foul play.
The body of Staff Sgt. Zachary L. Melton, a 30-year-old with the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, was discovered on Saturday at Fort Jackson, Army officials said in a news release.https://t.co/h73n3fJJRs
— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) December 18, 2023
Fort Jackson is the premier installation for basic training, graduating some 45,000 new trainees every year. 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.
The extreme workload compounds other issues, with drill sergeants reporting difficulty finding time to exercise and having family issues. In recent years, Fort Jackson officials have poured resources into the health of drill sergeants, including a high-end fitness facility with many of the accoutrements of a CrossFit gym in addition to cold plunge tubs, a yoga studio and wrestling mats for jiu-jitsu training.
In a first of its kind study in 2021 by Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, researchers surveying 856 drill sergeants found 19% of them suffered from depression, 27% had symptoms of moderate to severe insomnia, and 35% reported abusing alcohol. A drill sergeant’s workday is nearly 15 hours long, and they work an average of 6.4 days per week. With drill sergeants serving a minimum of two years in the role, that level of intensity is “extreme, even within the Army,” the study found.Advertisement
In an internal study for the Marine Corps in 2019, that service found that 55% of drill sergeants received a mental health diagnosis at some point in their career, with many of those diagnoses occurring during or after their assignment, compared to 22% of those who never serve in a special duty assignment. Marine drill instructors are also three times more likely to have a divorce.
News 19 WLTX aired this video report: