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Published: Friday, 7/15/2005

Napoleon soldier dies in training accident

Wertz Wertz

NAPOLEON - A local soldier in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division was killed accidentally Wednesday during a live-fire training exercise at Fort Campbell, Ky., the Army said yesterday.

Pfc. Gregory B. Wertz, 19, graduated from Napoleon High School last year and enlisted in the Army several months later, relatives said.

"He was proud of serving his country in the Army," Larry Wertz, his father, said in a phone interview last night. "Basically, he died for his country in training."

Private Wertz had been on active duty since December and arrived at Fort Campbell in May, the Army said. His job specialty was motor transport operator, and the exercise during which he was shot was live-fire convoy training.

Public affairs officers at the sprawling base along the Kentucky-Tennessee border 60 miles northwest of Nashville said an investigation into the death was under way and they could release no more information.

"We do everything we can during training exercises to ensure that safety procedures are observed and that we are able to train as realistically as we can," said Lt. Col. Ed Loomis, a Fort Campbell spokesman. "Our thoughts and prayers are with Pfc. Wertz' family."

Colonel Loomis could not confirm whether Private Wertz, who belonged to Alpha Company, 526th Brigade Support Battalion, was killed by a shot from another soldier's gun or his own weapon.

Mr. Wertz said he was only told by the Army that the shooting was accidental.

Private Wertz had last seen his father a week before his death, at the end of two weeks' home leave. Mr. Wertz said his son was receiving training specific to a deployment to Iraq he anticipated would occur in October.

"He was going to make [the Army] his career," the father said. "He expected to be in Iraq 18 months, then he was going to come home. And when he signed up again, he was hoping to go to Korea. He wanted to get his education and see the world."

Mr. Wertz said the younger of his two sons had been in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and played youth sports, but in high school joined no teams or clubs.

"He was just your typical high school kid who enjoyed his friends very much," Mr. Wertz said.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by the Snyder Wesche Funeral Home in Napoleon and were incomplete last night.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.

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