Soldiers Face Discipline in Texas Death

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 6:55 PM

FORT HOOD, Texas -- Several suspended soldiers who were leading a training program when an Army sergeant died during a solo navigation exercise now face disciplinary action, military officials said Tuesday.

Col. Mack Huey would not release details of the discipline, say how many soldiers would be involved, or say how their actions or mistakes might have contributed to the death of Army Sgt. Lawrence Sprader.

The soldiers have not been charged, although some of them could be in the future, Huey said.

Sprader's body was found June 12 under thick brush, four days after he disappeared during the exercise at Fort Hood. An autopsy showed that he died of dehydration and hyperthermia. Some 3,000 soldiers had searched the 15,000-acre range, which is covered with trees and high grass in Central Texas.

"While there is nothing that we can do to bring back Sgt. Sprader, it is our responsibility to ensure that his death must not be in vain," said Huey, the III Corps deputy commander (rear).

Military officials were revising procedures for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy, which trains soldiers to lead teams of troops, and hoped to increase knowledge about heat and weather factors and provide more water for troops doing navigation exercises, Huey said.

Sprader's body was found with two canteens like those given to the nearly 320 soldiers doing the training that day, Huey said, but he would not say if they contained water.

After Sprader went missing, the other training participants began searching, which was the academy's policy, Huey said. He said the on-post director of emergency services did not get involved until the next day, when he set up a command post and began coordinating the search.

About two weeks after Sprader's death, Fort Hood canceled the training program that included the navigation exercise, which tests basic map-reading and navigation skills, and suspended the academy leadership, Huey said. Administrative actions have been started in some of those soldiers' cases, Huey said, declining to elaborate.

The soldier's father said he was glad there would be accountability.

"I feel angry, but it's not at the Army. It's at the individuals they're going to hold accountable," Larry Sprader, of Prince George, Va., told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Army officials gave him a copy of Fort Hood's 20,000-page investigative report and discussed it with him over the weekend, he said.

Sprader, a Vietnam veteran with 24 years of military service, said he was satisfied after talking to Army officials and did not plan to sue or otherwise pursue the matter.

"Will there ever be closure? There's never going to be closure, but at least we have some answers," Sprader said.

His son's cell phone records contradict the military's previous account of its contact with the soldier, he said.

Fort Hood officials at the time said Lawrence Sprader last spoke to commanders by cell phone two hours after the exercise _ at about 5 p.m. on June 8 _ when he said he wanted to finish the drill, but said nothing about being sick or distressed. But the records showed no calls coming in or going out after 3:08 p.m., his father said.

Cell phone records show 16 one- to three-minute incoming and outgoing calls in about an hour on June 8, Larry Sprader said. Some calls were to Fort Hood and others were to numbers in surrounding Killeen, he said.

Huey said Tuesday that the information about Sprader's cell phone call was based on information they had that day. He declined to comment further about the phone records, saying that could be cause for the nonjudicial or judicial actions against some soldiers.

© 2007 The Associated Press