Defense spending bill implements military training rules stemming from Bradenton soldier’s death
Spc. Nicholas Panipinto

Spc. Nicholas Panipinto died in a training accident in South Korea in 2019.

Legislation introduced in honor of a Bradenton soldier killed in a training accident has now become law.

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan cheered inclusion of safer training practices in the National Defense Authorization Act, signed into law Monday by President Joe Biden. The defense budget bill includes language originally filed in Buchanan’s Preventing Future Tragedies Act (HR 5268).

The bill clearly defines the role of vehicle commanders and establishes procedures and mechanisms for tactical risk management for supervisors. It also sets staffing requirements for vehicle use and oversight measures meant to prevent future accidents and deaths, including standards for driver skills and experience. The substance of the language, championed by the Longboat Key Republican Congressman, was added as an amendment to the larger defense spending bill.

All this stems from the death of Army Specialist Nicholas Panipinto, who suffered critical injuries when the M2A3 Bradley Fighting Vehicle he was driving overturned during a 2019 training exercise in South Korea. Panipinto was airlifted from Camp Humphreys to a local hospital, but he died there. He was 20 years old.

Panipinto lacked the proper driver’s licensing to handle the vehicle and the base did not have the first responder capabilities to immediately treat his injuries.

“The death of Specialist Panipinto is a tragedy that never should have happened,” Buchanan said. “That’s why I’m committed to doing everything I can to make sure that no other family has to endure similar heartache. The greatest tribute we can pay to Nick is to ensure that future and entirely preventable military training accidents never happen again.”

Buchanan’s office worked closely with Kim Weaver, Panipinto’s mother, on crafting legislation.

“The devastating loss of Nicholas was compounded by the fact that it was totally preventable,” Weaver said. “I am hopeful that when implemented these reforms will help prevent another tragic loss. In the meantime, I am forever grateful to Congressman Buchanan for continuing to push for necessary military training reforms to protect service members.”

This is the second initiative inspired by Panipinto’s death to become law through the defense budget process. Last year, a Buchanan amendment to the NDAA required the Defense Department to examine its emergency response capabilities at all U.S. military bases around the world and to report on the availability of MedEvac helicopters and ambulances.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


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