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Marine commander, sergeant major fired after 2 rifles went missing in Dec

Lieutenant Colonel Clinton Kappel (Left), and Sergeant Major Elson L. Aviles (Right). (U.S. Marine Corps photos/Released)
March 17, 2020

The battalion commander and battalion sergeant major of a Marine Corps unit that lost two rifles in December were relieved of their commands last week

Lt. Col. Clinton Kappel and Sgt. Maj. Elson L. Aviles, the command team for the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment were fired from their leadership positions on March 12, according to a 2nd Marine Division press statement provided to American Military News.

“Decisions like this are taken seriously and with the intent of ensuring a given unit’s continued success in future operations,” 1st Lt. Dan Linfante, the division spokesman, said of the firing decision. “3rd Battalion, 6th Marines remains a proficient unit, capable of performing at a high level and carrying out the full spectrum of operations that are expected of an infantry battalion in the Marine Corps.”

The decision comes months after the unit launched a search effort to recover two rifles that went missing during field training at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The rifles remain missing even after the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) took over the search effort. NCIS is still searching for those missing weapons.

Rumors circulated at the time that the rifles went missing after a vehicle stopped on the side of the road and swiped them from Marines’ packs in a field. Another rumor circulated that many Marines would see holiday leave suspended while the search continued. Linfante, at the time, dispelled those rumors as untrue.

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Linfante declined to say whether the firing decision was made specifically over the missing rifles, according to Task & Purpose, who first reported the firing.

“The circumstances surrounding the relief are specific to the leader-led relationship and thus not open for discussion,” Linfante said.

The 2nd Marine Division Commanding General directed the decision to fire Kappel and Aviles.

Lt. Col. Kappel, 42, had enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1996 and went on to commission as an infantry officer, according to his service biography. He served as a platoon commander in Iraq in 2003 and deployed again to Iraq in 2004. He went on to serve as company commander for the 3d Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion when it deployed to Afghanistan in 2009 and later as the battalion operations officer when it deployed again to Afghanistan in 2010.

Sgt. Maj. Aviles, 41, enlisted in 1997 and trained as a combat engineer, his bio reads. He served as a platoon guide during a deployment in Iraq. He also served deployments in Afghanistan and Syria.

Kappel has been replaced by Lt. Col. Ryan Gordinier. The unit’s sergeant major billet, previously held by Aviles, remains open.