Green Beret and West Point Grad Killed in Severe Storm at Ranger School

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A Green Beret with five years in the Army and a second lieutenant who graduated from West Point in 2021 died in a freak weather accident during Ranger School training in the mountains of north Georgia on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

The Army said 2nd Lt. Evan Fitzgibbon and Staff Sgt. George Taber were both killed when a tree fell on them during a windstorm at Yonah Mountain near Dahlonega, Georgia, the home of Ranger School’s Mountain Phase.

Five Ranger students were struck by the tree, the Army said. Two were treated for non-life-threatening injuries and one remains in stable condition, according to the Fort Benning Facebook page.

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Army 2nd Lt. Evan Fitzgibbon shows off his “Branch Night” assignment as an infantry officer as a third-year cadet at West Point. Photo from Fitzgibbon’s Instagram.

Training was halted when the accident occurred due to the severity of the storm — which weather forecasters said might include 60-mph winds — but the tree fell on the soldiers as they took shelter, the Army said.

Fitzgibbon was an infantry officer assigned to the Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course, 199th Infantry “Leader Brigade” at Fort Benning, Georgia. He was a graduate of the US Military Academy and commissioned in May 2021.

Taber was a Special Forces medical sergeant assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. He enlisted in March 2017.

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Staff Sgt. George Taber was a Special Forces medic assigned to 7th Special Forces Group. He enlisted in 2017. US Army photo.

US Army photo.

“We are all deeply saddened by the loss of these two outstanding soldiers and send our heartfelt condolences to their families,” Maneuver Center of Excellence and Fort Benning commanding general Maj. Gen. Curtis A. Buzzard said in a statement. “They are in our thoughts and prayers.”

The incident marked the second time weather had turned deadly for soldiers training in Georgia in less than three weeks. Sgt. 1st Class Michael D. Clark, 41, was killed in a lightning strike at Fort Gordon near Augusta on July 20. Clark was an operating room specialist assigned to the 933rd Forward Resuscitative Surgical Company, 3rd Medical Command, according to an Army statement released Thursday. A native of Springfield, Massachusetts, Clark served more than 22 years in the active Army and Reserves, deploying four times to Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Matt White is the Military Editor for Coffee or Die. He was a Pararescueman in the Air Force and the Alaska Air National Guard for eight years, and has over a decade of experience in daily and magazine journalism. He also teaches journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Know a story about any aspect of the US military that Coffee Or Die readers need to know? Email him.
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