(RIP Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Shapoor ďAlexĒ Ghane)
SEALís death prompts look at shoot houses
By Gidget Fuentes - Staff writer
Posted : Friday Mar 6, 2009 16:09:23 EST
SAN DIEGO ó Investigators faulted lax range safety oversight that contributed to the shooting death of a Navy SEAL during live-fire training, according to a report.
Special Warfare Operator 1st Class (SEAL) Shapoor ďAlexĒ Ghane, 22, was shot in the upper left corner of his protective vest after a bullet pushed its way through a ballistic wall of gravel beds and plastic retainer walls Jan. 30, 2008.
It was a fatal blow to the Coronado, Calif.-based SEAL Team 5 member. The SEALs would later find out that the ballistic walls lacked the steel plates required in similar Navy live-fire training houses.
Few knew that just two days earlier, during another training run, a SEAL suspected that a round had gone through an interior ballistic wall of the same shoot house. The SEALs were training at the Mid-South Institute of Self Defense Shooting in Mississippi.
A Navy investigation into Ghaneís death found the ballistic wall was defective and poorly designed, with ďan insufficiently thick gravel wall, exposure of the interior gravel to changing weather conditions and the lack of a ballistic steel plate within the wall.Ē
Navy Times received a redacted copy of the investigation through a Freedom of Information Act request. Officials blacked out any mention of the type of ammunition the SEALs used that day. A representative for Mid-South did not return calls seeking comment.
The lead investigator questioned the integrity of the exposed ballistic walls in the uncovered area of the shooting house, designed ďad hocĒ by the general manager. The area had been pounded with heavy rains the night before Ghaneís death.
The facilityís ďinadequateĒ maintenance ďfocused more on the appearance of the wall exterior and tops than the condition of the contents inside the walls that stop bullet penetration,Ē he wrote. Ballistic testing done six years earlier was ďinadequate.Ē
The investigating officer, whose name was removed from the report, criticized the Navy and his own command.
ďWhile multiple factors, including the weather, ammunition and tactics may have played a role, Naval Special Warfareís inability to detect that the ballistic shoot house was not designed, built, maintained or tested based on formal objective standards was a systematic and critical failure,Ē the investigator wrote.
The private range facility never was formally inspected for safety or certified by the Navy.
ďAs such, Naval Special Warfare shares a collective responsibility,Ē the investigator wrote.
He recommended that the command establish written instructions and new checklists ďso component commands have consistent guidance to inspect and ensure safety of private ranges.Ē He suggested a formal inspection program with Naval Facilities Engineering Command to inspect all Naval Special Warfare ranges.
Capt. Thomas Brown, Naval Special Warfare Group 1 commodore, agreed with the investigation and ordered a new range inspection process at the group level.
Since Ghaneís death, Naval Special Warfare Command banned the use of standard ammunition at Mid-Southís close-quarters-combat course, but chalk or plastic rounds are allowed. The same rules apply at civilian close-quarters ranges, unless they are inspected and authorized to be used for live training, spokesman Cmdr. Greg Geisen said.