Dead U.S. Army Fort Jackson drill sergeant found in vehicle just days after another tragic soldier passing

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A U.S. Army drill sergeant based at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, was found dead on Saturday, making this the second such incident to happen at the training base within a span of 10 days.

According to a press release, 30-year-old Staff Sergeant Zachary Melton was located in his vehicle after he failed to report for work. Melton was attached to the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.

Fort Jackson officials said that Melton was pronounced dead by emergency medical services personnel shortly after they arrived at the scene. His next of kin have been notified, and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the death.

“We are extremely saddened by the loss of Staff Sergeant Melton,” said Brigadier General Jason Kelly, the commanding general at Fort Jackson, in the release. “Our thoughts are with his family and the soldiers of the Always Forward battalion during this very emotional time.”

Additional information, such as the cause of death, has not been released at this time. Fort Jackson officials said that military chaplains and behavioral health personnel are available to support members of Melton’s unit.

Melton’s death is the second that Fort Jackson has endured in the past two weeks. On December 8, 34-year-old Staff Sergeant Allen Burtram, with the 2nd Battalion, 13th Infantry Regiment, was found deceased after also failing to report for work. The Army Criminal Investigation Division is investigating the incident but has said that there is no apparent evidence of foul play in Burtram’s death.

Three drill sergeants have died at Fort Jackson in 2023. On June 12, 40-year-old Staff Sergeant Jaime Contreras was found unresponsive on a land navigation course after going missing during a training exercise roughly nine hours earlier.

According to the base’s website, Fort Jackson is the main production center for basic combat training for the Army, training roughly 50 percent of all U.S. soldiers who enter the forces each year. Over 60 percent of all women who enter the Army each year also trained at Fort Jackson.

The U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Academy is also located at Fort Jackson, where drill sergeants are trained.