Another Fort Jackson Official Found Dead

( – A second drill sergeant was found dead at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, in just over a week. Army Staff Sgt. Zachary Melton, 30, was discovered dead in his vehicle on Saturday, December 16th. Melton had failed to appear for his shift, triggering a search of the grounds, according to military representatives.

Commander in charge of the base Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly said the community was “extremely saddened” by the death of Staff Sgt. Melton. Melton’s unit had completed graduating a class through basic training that prior Thursday. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Melton had served with the Army for over a decade. For the last three years, he served as a drill sergeant.

Melton’s death is the second in just 8 days after Staff Sgt. Allen M. Burtram, 34, was found dead after failing to report for a shift. The circumstances surrounding his death were not immediately clear. No cause of death was given in either case. The Army said there was no reason to suspect foul play in either death.

Staff Sgt. Jaime Contreras also died at the base earlier this year, though he died during a training exercise. Contreras, 40, went missing for 11 hours after going missing during a solo land navigating exercise. He was found unresponsive and pronounced dead that night. The exact cause of death in that case has also been withheld by Fort Jackson officials.

The base is a permanent Army garrison for over 3,500 active duty soldiers. The Army boasts that the facility graduates approximately 45,000 new trainees every year.

The process is grueling and takes a toll on instructors as well as the graduating soldiers. In 2021, a survey of 856 drill sergeants found that 19% were coping with depression, 27% had insomnia, 14% struggled with anxiety, 48% had symptoms of high burnout, and much more.

The Walter Reed Army Institute study also noted that a workweek for a drill sergeant during a training period could see the individual working 15-hour days nearly 7 days a week.

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