What likely happened in one of the field training areas of Hawthorne Army Depot is something that is rare and is difficult to react to. The detonation fuse was activated while the propellant charge was not. That is my read on the initial cause of this incident. Wether this was due to a malfunction or improper assembly, I am unqualified to comment on.
Hawthorne is a few hours SE of Reno on US 95. Due to the remote desert environment it is suitable for easy construction of storage bunkers and similar facilities. Much of the depot is used as a training area for some units preparing for deployment to other desert environments.
The remoteness of the area also has drawbacks. While the combined population of the area is large enough to support a small hospital in the city of Hawthorne, I understand that the Depot has little more than a small clinic, thus requiring all emergencies that are life threatening to be evacuated to Reno.
Although the main area of the base is on flat land south of Walker Lake, most of the base is made of rugged and mountainous terrain, further complicating evacuation of any traumatic injury.
I await results of the investigation. I would guess that Army, Marine Corps, and representatives of the makers of every component of the mortar system in question will be involved. Wether a definitive cause is determined I cannot even guess.
I wish comfort on the survivors and their families.
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