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Two Soldiers Killed in Fort Polk Training Accident

Two soldiers involved in an urban assault drill were killed Thursday when they were run over by a 63-ton tank.

The accident came a day after an Air Force Reserve F-16 crashed in Utah, killing the pilot. That crash was the second fatal accident involving F-16s in Utah in less than three weeks.

The soldiers were with the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky., which was recently stationed in Afghanistan, said Fort Polk spokesman Ron Elliott.

Elliott said he didn't know if the soldiers had seen overseas service.

The accident occurred about 5:20 a.m. and both soldiers were flown by helicopter to the Fort Polk hospital where they were pronounced dead, Elliott said.

About 400 soldiers were participating in the pre-dawn drill at the Army's Joint Readiness Training Center. The victims were run over by an M-1 Abrams tank, Elliott said. They were not part of the tank's crew, Elliott said.

Their identities were withheld until relatives could be notified. The accident was under investigation.

The drill involved a batallion-sized force trying to take over an urban target, Elliott said. The training center has a simulated village that was the target of the drill.

Elliott said the 101st was not training for any specific deployment, such as Iraq, and the exercises were scheduled a year ago.

The 101st Airborne is a rapid deployment, air assault division trained to go anywhere in the world in 36 hours. About 4,000 soldiers from the division's 3rd Brigade, 187th Regiment, fought in Afghanistan. The division's tour ended in August.

In Utah, the single-seat F-16C went down in the desert Wednesday afternoon, killing Lt. Col. Dillion L. McFarland, 40, a member of the 419th Fighter Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit.

Authorities located the wreckage and McFarland's body about 2 hours later, said Stephanie Johns, a fighter wing spokeswoman. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash.

McFarland, a commercial pilot, husband and father of two who lived near Hill Air Force Base, joined the 419th in 1998 and had more than 3,000 flying hours in an F-16, including 85 combat hours, Johns said.

"Our deepest sympathies go out to the family and friends of the warrior we lost," fighter wing commander Col. Wayne Conroy said.

McFarland's single-seat jet crashed about 25 miles northeast of Wendover, Utah, over the military's test and training range.

McFarland's jet was carrying no live weapons, but had an inert missile used for training purposes, Maj. Shawn Mecham said.

On Oct. 25, two F-16Cs collided about 25 miles southeast of Wendover. One pilot ejected safely.

The body of the other pilot, Lt. Jorma Huhtala, was found the following day after an extensive search, several miles from the wreckage of his plane.

That crash remains under investigation.