3 relieved of command in Hawthorne training accident
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (AP) — Three Marine Corps officers at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune have been relieved of their command nearly two months after a training accident that killed seven Marines in Nevada.
A battalion commander, a company commander and an infantry weapons officer have been relieved after a mortar tube exploded during a field exercise March 18 at Hawthorne Army Depot, the Marines said Wednesday. Seven Marines and a sailor also were wounded.
The officers relieved were Lt. Col. Andrew McNulty, Capt. Kelby Breivogel and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas Derring. The decision was made by Brig. Gen. James Lukeman, the 2nd Marine Division commander.
“Specifically for Lt. Col McNulty, he was relieved because of a loss of confidence in his ability to continue commanding the battalion,” Lt. Peter Koerner, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division, said Thursday.
He did not have details on why the other two were relieved, but said all three remain active duty Marines. It was not immediately know what their new assignments would be.
No one has been charged with any sort of crime because of the training accident, and no charges are expected, Koerner said.
Asked if there might be other sanctions, such as letters of reprimand for the three officers, Koerner said “there could be, but generally that is administrative and we don’t discuss that.”
The accident prompted the Pentagon to suspend use of 60 mm mortars — like those being used during the training exercise — until the investigation was done. Troops in Afghanistan were exempted from the suspension.
The suspension, in effect until the accident investigation is complete, largely affects units that are training, although those Marines could use the larger and more powerful 81 mm mortar systems if needed.
Koerner said the ongoing investigation is nearing completion, although he did not have a specific timetable for its finish. The findings will eventually be released in a report, he said.