Training facility where Memphis soldier died is known for harsh conditions

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The training that a Memphis soldier was undergoing at the time of her death is some of the most intense in the world.

National Guard Private First Class Tara Turnage died in a training accident in California on Monday.

The details of the accident have not been released, but it's not the first time an accident has claimed the life of a soldier at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California.

Less than a year ago, Sgt. Kyle Clayton Thomas of Mississippi died while training at the center. Three other soldiers were injured in that accident.

Turnage's best friend, Barbara Barksdale, said she knew things were tough for Turnage while she was away at training.

"She had never seen anything like this before, but at the same time, it wasn't going to stop her from doing her job," Barksdale said.

The Tennessee National Guard released a statement sending condolences to the fallen soldier, but also describing the tough conditions:

"The NTC is a harsh and unforgiving desert environment and is the most advanced training area in the world.  As a veteran of several NTC rotations and having experienced combat—the NTC is harder.  This Soldier was doing her job in this harsh environment and had an accident.  We mourn her loss and her absence will be felt throughout the Tennessee National Guard.  I pray for her immediate family and her Guard family as we all hurt."

Barksdale said she and Turnage were as close as two people could be. They had matching tattoos, were born three days apart, got matching rose rings, and shared everything. She said the reality of losing her best friend is surreal.

"I'm in shock, honestly in disbelief; I haven't processed it," Barksdale said.

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