MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The command investigation into the tragic death of seven Marines and the injury of eight other service members of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, at Hawthorne, Nevada, on March 18, has been completed.
The deaths and injuries occurred during the conduct of a company-level live-fire night attack on Range 500 aboard Hawthorne Army Depot, when a 60mm mortar round exploded in the immediate vicinity of the mortar section's firing position.
A command investigation was initiated by Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division.
The investigation established that human error was the cause of the mortar mishap. The Marines employing one of the mortars did not follow correct procedures, resulting in the detonation of a high explosive round at the mortar position.
The investigation also determined that the mortar section had not conducted appropriate preparatory training leading up to the night, company-level, live-fire event.
As a result of the investigation’s findings, Lukeman relieved Lieutenant Colonel Andrew McNulty, the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, on May 8.
Captain Kelby Breivogel, the company commander of Company A, and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Derring, the battalion’s Marine infantry weapons officer, or Gunner, were also relieved of their duties.
Lukeman relieved those officers because he lost trust and confidence in their ability to ensure proper preparation for, and conduct of, live fire training events.
Lieutenant Colonel Corey Collier assumed command of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, on May 23.
No Marines or sailors have been charged with a crime or violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and no charges are anticipated.
The investigation also determined that the mortar system functioned properly at Hawthorne and found no reason to question the safety of the system when it is employed as designed and as Marines are trained to employ it. Any questions regarding the 60mm mortar and ammunition should be directed to Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps.