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Associated Press, Published April 30 2010

Minot AFB airman killed in training

BISMARCK – A Minot Air Force Base airman died after being struck in the head by a training missile during a training exercise.

The base did not immediately identify the airman with the 17th Munitions Squadron. Base spokeswoman Laurie Arellano said the accident happened around midnight Wednesday and that the airman died early Thursday at a Minot hospital.

“We are very saddened by this loss,” said Col. David Milner, commander of the 798th Munitions Maintenance Group, which oversees the squadron.

Arellano said the training missile was a Cruise missile, which are launched from B-52 bombers. She did not provide details of how the airman was struck.

“It was a training missile, not a live missile,” Arellano said. “They are inert weapons we use to practice loading (onto planes) and unloading.”

The northern North Dakota base has two missions – the bombers and overseeing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles that dot the northwest North Dakota countryside.

The base has a recent history of mishaps, including a series of embarrassing nuclear blunders. In one incident, a B-52 mistakenly flew six nuclear-tipped cruise missiles from the Minot base to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana in August 2007.

Arellano said fatalities during training exercises on base are rare and that the investigation into the airman’s death was just beginning.

“We’ll continue to monitor our safety procedures and continue to maintain training to the highest standards,” Arellano said.

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