Last March, seven Marines were killed and eight were wounded during a nighttime live-fire training exercise when their mortar tube exploded. A military investigation has revealed that a double-loaded mortar tube is responsible for the explosion.
Stars and Stripes reported, “A military investigation launched afterward determined that human error was to blame for the March 18 blast at Hawthorne Army Depot, but several factors led to the tragedy, the newspaper’s website said, citing the investigation report obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.”
“The investigation determined that insufficient training and preparation in the 60 mm mortar weapons system used in the exercise was partly to blame. The report also cites improper mortar gunnery commands and firing procedures, a “perceived sense of urgency” and haste, and a lack of supervision of the mortar section in the months before and during the deadly training exercise, the newspaper said.”
“Because of the terrain, the Marines at Hawthorne the night of the blast were grouped tightly around two mortar tubes. The explosion occurred when a Marine inserted a second round into a mortar tube, detonating the round already in it and shooting out the half-loaded round, the website reported, citing the investigation’s findings.”
The Marines were from Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines from Camp Lejeune, North Caroline. The Marines had only been training on the mortar systems only two months earlier and had previously transitioned from the 81mm mortar system.
Stars and Stripes reported the names of the Marines killed in the incident 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.; and Cpl. Aaron J. Ripperda, 26, of Madison Ill.”
Three officers were relieved of their commands due to the incident.