An Army drill sergeant from Alabama has been found dead on base at Fort Jackson, S.C. This marks the second time in just over a week that such a tragic event has occurred.
Staff Sgt. Zachary L. Melton, a 30-year-old native of Huntsville, was discovered deceased in his vehicle on Saturday when he failed to report for duty. Melton, who was stationed at Fort Jackson, was attached to the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment.
Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, the commanding general of Fort Jackson, expressed deep sorrow over the passing of Staff Sgt. Melton. In a statement, he conveyed his heartfelt condolences to Melton’s family and the soldiers of the Always Forward battalion, acknowledging the emotional toll this loss has brought upon them.
During his ten-year military career, Melton served in the Army, spending the last three years as a drill sergeant at Fort Jackson. Throughout his service, he received numerous awards and commendations, including the Army Commendation Medal with a combat device, three Army Commendation Medals, two Army Achievement Medals, the National Defense Service Medal, the Afghanistan Campaign Medal with a campaign star, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, the Army Service Ribbon, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ribbon.
According to the Army, Melton’s unit had recently finished their last round of basic training and he was currently on a break. The cause and manner of his death have not been disclosed yet, but the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division is currently conducting an investigation.
On base, Staff Sgt. Allen Burtram, 34, was discovered deceased eight days ago after he failed to report for duty. Army officials have stated that Burtram’s death is still under investigation by Criminal Investigations, but foul play is not believed to be involved.
Burtram hailed from Cleveland, a city located approximately 40 miles northeast of Birmingham. The Army stated that he had dutifully served in their ranks for 12 years, with his final 18 months spent at Fort Jackson. During his service, he was deployed for eight months in Kuwait and another year in Korea.
Fort Jackson, located near Columbia, S.C., is the proud residence of more than 3,500 active duty personnel. Serving as the Army’s largest basic training center, Fort Jackson plays a crucial role in shaping the future of our soldiers. In fact, it is estimated that approximately half of all individuals entering the Army undergo their training at this prestigious facility.
According to a study conducted in 2021 by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, researchers surveyed 856 drill sergeants and found that 19% of them experienced depression, 27% had symptoms of moderate to severe insomnia, and 35% reported alcohol abuse. (Source: Military.com)
According to the study, a drill sergeant’s workday is almost 15 hours long, and they typically work an average of 6.4 days per week. The study also noted that this level of intensity is considered “extreme, even within the Army,” especially considering that drill sergeants serve a minimum of two years in this role.