Entries in Marines (26)


Vigil Held in Nevada for Seven Marines Killed in Training Accident 

ABC News(HAWTHORNE, Nev.) -- Several hundred people showed up for a vigil Tuesday night in Nevada to remember the seven Marines who were killed on Monday during a training exercise.

The Marines, who were from the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, N.C., were conducting live fire maneuver training at the Hawthorne Army Depot 140 miles southeast of Reno, Nev., on Monday when Brig. Gen. Jim Lukeman said it appeared a mortar round exploded in a tube at 9:55 p.m. PT.

Eight others were wounded in the blast.  The survivors are being treated at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno for injuries that include trauma fractures and vascular injuries, hospital spokeswoman Stacy Kendall told ABC News.

   The victims were identified as:
   -- Pfc. Joshua M. Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa.
   -- Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla.
   -- Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn.
   -- Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio
   -- Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C.
   -- Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md.
   -- Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill.

The Marines had been training at the Hawthorne Army Depot and the nearby Mountain Warfare Training Center for the past month, Lukeman said.  The training was not in anticipation of an imminent deployment, he said.

The mountainous desert terrain of the 230-square-mile depot is used as a training location for special forces since it "provides a realistic simulation of the situation in Afghanistan," according to the depot's website.  The depot is also used as a storage site for ammunition awaiting demilitarization.

The Marines have issued a suspension on the use of all 60mm mortars and there associated tubes while they conduct a review of what caused a round to explode.  The suspension will affect mortars used both in training and in deployed settings.


Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

   The victims were identified as:

   -- Pfc. Joshua M. Martino, 19, of Clearfield, Pa.

   -- Lance Cpl. David P. Fenn II, 20, of Polk City, Fla.

   -- Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, of Fairfield, Conn.

   -- Lance Cpl. Joshua C. Taylor, 21, of Marietta, Ohio

   -- Lance Cpl. Mason J. Vanderwork, 21, of Hickory, N.C.

   -- Lance Cpl. William T. Wild IV, 21, of Anne Arundel, Md.

   -- Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison, Ill.


Gay Marine Proposes to Boyfriend at White House

Mike Tapscott / American Military Partner Association(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Phelps made history Saturday at the home of his commander in chief.

The 35-year-old active-duty officer proposed to his boyfriend, Ben Schock, 26, in the Grand Foyer of the White House at the end of a holiday tour.

It’s believed to be the first time two gay men have gotten engaged inside the White House, and a first for an active-duty member of the U.S. military.  A transgender man proposed to his partner in the East Room earlier this year.

“Our first date was to the White House, so I wanted to propose to him there,” Phelps told ABC News. “When I got invited to the holiday tour — six months to the day that we had been there on our first date — it was way too much of a coincidence to pass up.”

The moment, which Phelps described as a complete surprise to Schock, was captured on camera by fellow tour-goers. Some of the images have since gone viral online.

The White House declined to comment on the engagement. No word on whether the Obamas knew what happened in their halls.

Phelps said his public engagement — made possible in part because of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — has been well-received among his Marine Corps peers. But he noted that there could be a rocky road ahead for their relationship after the nuptials planned for next spring.

“The one thing that is overshadowing things,” he said, “is the fact that the Defense of Marriage Act is still in effect and the DOD [Defense Department] isn’t going to recognize our marriage.

“I’m expecting to get orders to Japan next summer, but as of right now, because they’re not going to recognize Ben as my spouse, they’re not going to pay for him to accompany me; he’s not going to have any health care coverage; and, he’s not going to have access to the base while I’m gone,” he said.

“I’d have to get permission to live out in town as a ‘single officer,’ so we’ll have to figure that out,” he said.

The Supreme Court will later this year review the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage for federal purposes as between one man and one woman.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Michelle Obama Collects Toys for Tots with Marine Corps

Leon Neal/WPA POOL/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — First lady Michelle Obama volunteered with the Marine Corps’ Toys for Tots campaign Tuesday, continuing a tradition she’s made with the organization each year since entering the White House.

Toys for Tots is a volunteer organization that collects gifts for needy children. Before joining service members in sorting the toy and clothing donations into large boxes for delivery, Obama thanked the assorted volunteers, which were overwhelmingly military, for taking time for the program during the holiday season.

“As you all know, Toys for Tots started with a military family — a Marine reservist and his wife who decided that they wanted to make the holiday just a little bit better for kids in need,” she said. “And since then, so many Americans — including so many military families like all of you — have spent countless hours bringing gifts and holiday cheer and everything else that is wonderful about the holidays to children all across this country.”

The first lady said the event was an example of military families “always going that extra mile” to serve communities.

“Somehow you always are the first people to volunteer for something,” she said. “It could be as simple as the carpool, or the PTA, or a food pantry, or you’re stepping up for a neighbor or friend; family members of your own.”

The small event took place at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in the southeast of the city. Some donations came from the White House itself, including clothes from the Obama daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Also found among the gifts were boxes of K’NEX construction toys President Obama brought back from a recent visit to their factory in Pennsylvania.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marines Move to Fire Clothes Company After Deadly Factory Fire

STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The United States Marine Corps is acting to terminate its agreement with a North Carolina clothing manufacturer that was believed to be making clothing with American military logos and slogans in a Bangladesh factory where a fire killed more than 112 workers, officials said.

Activists in Bangladesh told ABC News that inside the smoldering wreckage of the Tazreen Fashions factory they found order forms and design specs from the brand, Soffe, for sweatshirts and tank tops emblazoned with U.S. Marine Corps insignia and logos.  Marine Corps officials said they had been told the items were being made in America.

"Under the License, the Marine Corps may terminate the License if Soffe is found to be in breach of certain provisions," said Jessica O'Haver, who oversees the military branch's licensing program.  "The Marine Corps has reason to believe that Soffe has in fact breached the license, and has informed Soffe of its intention to terminate the License."

The move by the Marines is the latest in a series of developments in the aftermath of the deadly blaze, as a number of major American brands have tried to explain how their clothing lines wound up in a factory that had been hit with repeated warnings for serious safety violations.

Officials with the company that owns the Tazreen factory, Tuba Group, have repeatedly declined to comment on the blaze, but the largest company whose clothing was found in the factory, Walmart, has acknowledged it is investigating to determine how the safety warnings came to be ignored by its suppliers.

More documents found in the factory indicate that two Walmart suppliers were using the factory around the time of the fire, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.  

Kevin Gardner, a Walmart spokesman, told the Times, "If we determine that other suppliers were using a deactivated factory to produce merchandise for Walmart, that's a violation of our supplier standards.  If that is the case, it is unacceptable and we will take appropriate action."

An executive at the parent company of Soffe, the label making garments with U.S. Marine Corps logos, told ABC News last week that his company also did not know how design specs for his firm's items wound up in the Tazreen factory.  He provided ABC News with shipping records showing the company last received a shipment from Tazreen in 2011, and said they had requested that factory no longer be used.

"We never purposefully produced garments there.  Ever," said Bob Humphreys, chairman and CEO of Delta Apparel, which is the parent company of the brand Soffe.

Advocates with the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity discovered the order book in the burned out Tazreen building and photographed it.  The photos include order sheets dated July 2012, designs for hooded sweatshirts that say "Semper Fi" or "U.S. Marines," matching sweat pants, and a tank top that says "The Few. The Proud."

Humphreys reviewed the photos at the request of ABC News and said that the order forms and specs appeared to be "based on" his company's documents.  He speculated that Tuba, which had an order from Soffe, had moved production to Tazreen without telling his company.

Worker rights groups in the U.S. expressed outrage that an overseas factory with clearly identified safety problems would be selected to manufacture clothing for a licensee of the United States Marines.

"The fact that Marines logo clothing was found in the rubble of the sweatshop fire should serve as a wake-up call to the U.S. government to put into place safeguards to ensure decent working conditions in government supply chains and among licensees," said Liana Foxvog of the International Labor Rights Forum.

The Marine Corps has expressed serious concerns about the production process, and said they never allowed Soffe to make military licensed clothes in Tazreen.

"The Marine Corps has established specific guidelines for its licensees and their manufacturers around the world," O'Haver said in a statement emailed to ABC News.  That includes "prohibitions against forced labor, child labor, health and safety, harassment or abuse, wages and benefits, working environment, and other issues.  Neither Tazreen Fashions nor their parent company Tuba Garments, LTD are authorized manufacturers of Soffe licensed Marine Corps branded merchandise."

O'Haver said the Marine Corps "has offered Soffe a period of time to provide information" before it formally terminates its agreement with the company.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Marines Toughen Fitness Test for Women

Creatas/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- All the Marines want is a few good women who can do at least three pull-ups.

Without explaining why on Tuesday, Gen. Jim Amos announced that females will be required to do pull-ups like their male counterparts in order to pass the annual physical fitness tests.

Because women are viewed as having less upper-body strength, they currently do the flexed-arm hang that requires them to hold the position for 70 seconds.  Males need to do three pull-ups to pass with the completion of 20 considered a perfect score.

Both sexes are required to do sit-ups and are timed during a three-mile run.

Amos said the new rules go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, with officials phasing in the change throughout next year.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


How Many Bayonets Does the US Have?

Cpl. Walter D. Marino II/U.S. Marine Corps(WASHINGTON) -- The most memorable line of Monday night’s debate was President Obama’s pointed “horses and bayonets” jab at Mitt Romney for questioning what Romney said was a shrinking U.S. Navy.

Obama responded that Romney “hasn’t spent enough time looking at how our military works.”  He added, “You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916.  Well, governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed.”

Horses and bayonets quickly became a Twitter punchline, but while they may no longer be needed for bayonet charges, it turns out the Pentagon still owns a hefty arsenal of bayonets.

The Army said on Tuesday it has 419,155 bayonets in its inventory.  The Marine Corps has another 195,334 bayonets that it bought in 2004 and  it plans on buying 175,061 more bayonets this year.  A Marine official says it’s not accurate to add the two totals together as the new ones will include replacements for ones already in service as well as additional stocks.

Bayonets are standard issue for Marines deployed to combat areas, though they don’t necessarily carry them with them when they’re on patrol.

Several soldiers who spoke to ABC News said that deploying with bayonets to Iraq and Afghanistan varied from unit to unit.  While not a requirement, one soldier said they were available if needed.

However, a 2011 Stars and Stripes article quoted a former Army official as saying bayonets had not been issued to soldiers deploying in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2010, the Army dropped bayonet training for its recruits in basic training.

The Army also reported on Tuesday that it has 176 horses.  The horses kept at Fort Myer, Va., are used mainly for ceremonial duties at Arlington Cemetery and the Capital region.  There are also some horses located at Fort Hood, Texas.

The Marine Mountain Warfare Training Center in California trains Marines in using horses, mules and donkeys to carry supplies in mountainous regions.

Romney has proposed increasing the Navy to more than 300 ships from the current fleet size of 285 ships.  A Defense official pointed out on Tuesday that the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan presented to Congress earlier this year will result in 300 ships by 2019.

However, the official also said that while numbers are important when talking about a globally deployed Navy it’s important to look beyond the numbers at a ship’s capabilities when it’s deployed.

“When you look at an Arliegh Burke Class destroyer it’s missile defense capable, it can fire cruise missiles, it can conduct anti-submarine warfare, it has a gun on front for anti-surface warfare.  It can patrol the coast of not only the U.S. but off the coast of other countries.  That’s a pretty capable platform,” the official said.

Adding that these destroyers can also carry helicopters, the official said, “It’s not single use, that’s been the evolution of not just the Navy but of our platforms as well.”

The official said today’s ships can carry out the capabilities of the 600-ship Navy envisioned by the Reagan administration.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Criminal Charges for Marines in Taliban Urination Video

The video appears to show four men in uniform looking around before urinating on three dead bodies. ( -- Two U.S. Marines have become the first to be criminally charged for allegedly urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters on camera.

Staff Sergeants Joseph W. Chamblin and Edward W. Deptola are allegedly two of the four Marines shown in a video made in July 2011 in southern Afghanistan in which the men urinate on the corpses of three Afghan men while chuckling, according to Marine Corps spokesperson Col. Sean Gibson. A voice can be overheard in the background of the video apparently addressing the killed fighters, saying, "Have a nice day, buddy."

The two staff sergeants were officially charged with "posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties," failing to properly prevent or report misconduct by junior Marines under their command, the indiscriminate firing of a grenade launcher and the indiscriminate firing of an enemy machine gun.

Three other Marines from the same unit previously received non-judicial punishments after pleading guilty in connection with the video. Punishments for those Marines included a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, and punitive letters for permanent placement in their personnel records.

In addition to the five Marines already facing punishments, a Marine Corps statement said "there are other pending cases related to this incident" and that further "disciplinary actions regarding other Marines will be announced at a later date."

All of the Marines identified so far were assigned to Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, Commander General of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, referred both staff sergeants to a Special Court Martial. Referring their cases to a Special Court Martial skips the evidentiary hearings needed to proceed to a General Court Martial and also limits their potential punishments.

Gibson, a spokesman for Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said the maximum punishments available under a Special Court Martial is one year of confinement, a two-thirds forfeiture of pay for one year, a reduction in rank to Private and a bad conduct discharge.

The video was recorded during a counterinsurgency operation in Helmand Province on or about July 27, 2011, but it was not posted on the Internet until January 2012. As it spread on the Internet, it drew instant condemnation from top Pentagon officials who feared that it would lead to a backlash against American troops serving in Afghanistan.

Shortly after the video appeared online, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos initiated a criminal investigation to authenticate the video. He also commissioned a command investigation by a three-star general to determine what factors may have led to the recording of the video. Both investigations concluded in March.

Based on the information gleaned from the command investigation, Mills ordered a further inquiry completed in June that looked into possible misconduct by members of the unit involved in the incident beyond those depicted in the video.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Live Rocket-Propelled Grenade Removed from Marine’s Leg

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) -- It was a medevac mission like few others that required heroic choices from all involved.

On January 12, Marine Lance Corporal Winder Perez was wounded in a Taliban attack in southern Afghanistan. The live explosive and a foot-long remnant from a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) remained lodged in his leg.

A crew of four New Mexico National Guardsmen agreed to take on the risky assignment of flying him by medevac helicopter to get medical care.

“Each of us on the aircraft had to agree to take the patient on,” Spc. Mark Edens told ABC News affiliate KOAT-TV in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“There was quite a bit of alarm among the crew at the time, as you can imagine,” Capt. Kevin Doo told KOAT.  “If the RPG exploded, you know Spc. Edens and Sgt. Hardesty are working on the patient directly over him, shrapnel alone would have been devastating. And about 18 inches behind where the patient is lying is over 300 gallons of jet aviation fuel, and it would have been catastrophic.”

When Perez arrived at the field hospital 65 miles away, he was not brought inside.  Instead Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Gennari and Army Staff Sergeant Ben Summerfield, an explosives expert, stood by his gurney and undertook the risky move of removing the foot-long section of the RPG from his leg. Wearing full combat gear and a flak jacket, Summerfield literally yanked the RPG from his leg, so that medical teams could treat his injuries.

Perez continues to recover from his wounds at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Unavoidable’ Bird Strike Killed 2 Marines 

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- A “likely unavoidable” bird strike was responsible for a helicopter crash that killed two Camp Pendleton Marines in September, according to a Marine Corps investigation.

Capt. Jeffrey Bland, 37, and 1st Lt. Thomas Heitmann, 27, were killed on Sept. 19 when their AH-1W Cobra helicopter collided with a female red-tailed hawk near Fallbrook, Calif.

The bird, which investigators estimated had a 4-foot wingspan and weighed 3 pounds,  hit the top of the helicopter and damaged the pitch change link, according to a report obtained by the San Diego Union-Tribune through a public records request.

Vibrations in the main rotor caused the helicopter to fall to the ground in three separate pieces, the report stated.

The two Marines were killed on impact, while the wreckage ignited a brush fire that spread over 120 acres.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


San Diego Woman's Body Identified, Suspect in Jail

ABC News(SAN DIEGO) -- A body found late Tuesday near Lake Skinner in Riverside County, Calif., has been identified as a missing California woman, Brittany Killgore.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner confirmed the body's identity Wednesday evening, a day after it was discovered about 20 miles from Killgore's home.

Earlier, a suspect in Killgore's murder was released from a San Diego hospital and taken to jail, officials said.

Jessica Lynn Lopez, 25, was being held on suspicion of first-degree murder, Steve Walker, spokesman for the San Diego District Attorney's Office, told ABC News, though charges had not been filed.

Lopez was found with self-inflicted lacerations in a Ramada Inn hotel room in San Diego Tuesday morning.

Officers found an apparent suicide note in Lopez's room, which allegedly explained what happened to Killgore, 22, and where her body was.

Investigators recovered the body after they followed the clues in the suicide note.

An officer described the scene at the hotel over a police scanner: "Lacerations at the Ramada limited....The female is conscious and breathing. Medics are en route."

The San Diego Sheriff's Office and the San Diego County District Attorney declined to comment on the relationship between Killgore and Lopez.

The developments came after Killgore's estranged husband said he would return home from Afghanistan, where he is an active-duty Marine, to help in the search for his wife.

Killgore, of Fallbrook, Calif., filed for divorce from her husband, Cory Killgore, also 22, just days before she disappeared Friday evening.

Police said they believe 45-year-old Marine Louis Ray Perez may have been the last person to see Killgore alive. Perez was arrested Sunday on an unrelated charge of possession of an AR-15 assault rifle and is being held in San Diego Central Jail on $500,000 bail.

"Mr. Perez was not cooperative or what we felt was fully forthcoming in his interview," said Lt. Larry Nesbit of the San Diego Sheriff's Office.

"He's being actively investigated for this murder," Nesbit told ABC News station KABC-TV in Los Angeles.

Killgore told friends she was going to spend Friday evening in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. However, authorities believe she never made it. Her cellphone was recovered in the area by San Diego trolley security.

Police declined to say whom Killgore planned to spend the evening with or the nature of her relationship with Perez.

Court records obtained by ABC News show Killgore filed for divorce last week from her husband, and a neighbor says he believes she was cheating on her husband.

"She has been unfaithful to him," the neighbor said. "She has just been doing her own thing and telling everyone that she is getting a divorce."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio