3 Lejeune Marines relieved of duty following deadly mortar explo - WNCT

3 Lejeune Marines relieved of duty following deadly mortar explosion

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CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -

Three Camp Lejeune officers have been relieved of their command following a training accident that killed seven Marines back in March.

Marine Corps officials tell 9 On Your Side a Battalion Commander, a Company Commander and an Infantry Weapons Officer were all relieved of their command with the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 2nd Marine Division.

The three relieved include Lt. Col. Andrew McNulty, Capt. Kelby S. Breivogel and Chief Warrant Officer 3 Douglas H. Derring. We're told the 2d Marine Division Commanding General, Brigadier General James Lukeman, relieved Lt. Col. Andrew Mcnulty due to a loss of confidence in his ability to continue commanding the battallion.

The accident happened at Hawthorne Army Depot in Nevada. Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor, Private First Class Josh Martino, Lance Cpl. Roger Muchnick, Cpl. Aaron Ripperda, Lance Cpl. David Fenn, Lance Cpl. Mason Vanderwork and Lance Cpl. William Wild were all killed when a mortar exploded. Six other Marines were injured.

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We now know the names of six of the eight injured Marines. They were hurt in a mortar explosion in Nevada Monday night.

They are LCpl Sean J. Burke, LCpl Douglas L. Hand II, LCpl Myles E. Harris, HM3 Ian S. McClanahan, Sgt Caleb W. Patton, and CWO-2 Ryan P. West.

Wednesday night, military officials identified the seven Camp Lejeune Marines killed in the same accident.

21-year-old Lance Cpl. Josh Taylor of Marietta, Ohio died. His grandfather says he was engaged to be married in May.

19-year-old Private First Class Josh Martino of Clearfield, Pennsylvania also died. He was preparing for deployment to Afghanistan.

23-year-old Lance Cpl. Roger Muchnick had served in the Marines for about three years. Hhe was from Fairfield, Connecticut. He'd been to Afghanistan and was thinking about returning to college after enlistment ended.

26-year-old Corporal Aaron Ripperda was a football player in high school in Highland, Illinois. His former assistant principal says he was respectful and hardworking.

20-year-old Lance Cpl. David Fenn of Polk City, Florida joined the Marines in 2010. He received several awards including the Combat Action Ribbon and National Defense Service Medal.

21-year-old Lance Cpl. Mason Vanderwork of Hickory, North Carolina also joined the Marines in 2010. He was most recently deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. He also had several awards while serving.

21-year-old Lance Cpl. William Wild of Anne Arundel, Maryland was also deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom in 2011. He had several awards including the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal among others.

Brigadier General Jim Lukeman said Tuesday afternoon that the mortar round exploded inside its firing tube during mountain training exercises.

It happened at Hawthorne Army Depot in western Nevada just before 10 p.m. PST Monday. That depot serves as a storage site for munitions. It's also a training facility for special forces headed overseas.

"We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident.  We remain focused on ensuring that they are supported through this difficult time," said Maj. Gen. Raymond C. Fox, II MEF commanding general. "We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice."

9 On Your Side spoke with a former Camp Lejeune Marine, Dustin Calahan, who says he knows four of the victims.

"He [Joshua Taylor] was definitely a caring person. On patrols, he loved talking to little kids and loved meeting Afghans and wanted to sincerely help them out," said Calahan, Taylor's friend and a former Camp Lejeune Marine of four years.

The Hawthorne Army Depot stores and disposes of ammunition. The facility is made up of hundreds of buildings spread over more than 230 square miles.

Hawthorne has held an important place in American military history since World War II when it became the staging area for ammunition, bombs and rockets for the war. The Nevada Division of Environmental Protection says that the depot employed more than 5,500 people at its peak. Nevada was chosen for the location because of its remoteness in the wake of a devastating explosion at the government's main depot in New Jersey in the 1920s.

It opened in September 1930 as the Naval Ammunition Depot Hawthorne and was redesignated Hawthorne Army Ammunition Plant in 1977 when it moved under the control of the Army, according to its web site. In 1994, the site ended its production mission and became Hawthorne Army Depot. The site currently serves several purposes for the military, including storing ammunition and explosives and providing what the military calls an ideal training facility for special forces preparing for deployments to similar desert terrain in places like Afghanistan.

Nevada's political leaders expressed their sympathy.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., gave his condolences to victims of the explosion during a Tuesday morning speech on the Senate floor.

Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller tweeted, "Thoughts and prayers are with the families who lost a loved one in the Hawthorne Army Depot explosion. Grateful for their service."

"I am deeply saddened to hear of the incident at the Hawthorne Army Depot this morning," Republican Nevada Gov.. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. "The men and women who work and train there put service ahead of self each and every day. Kathleen and I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to those killed and their families. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have been injured and we pray for their speedy recovery."

North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan released the following statement, "I was so saddened to learn about the seven Marines from Camp Lejeune who were killed last night in Nevada.  Our Marines, and all of our service members, demonstrate their bravery everyday as they serve our country. My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Marines who were killed and those who were injured, and I will continue to monitor the investigation so we can find out what happened and take appropriate steps."

Current Marines and military families say this a difficult loss.

"It's going to hit hard," said Marine Random Snyderbeuch.

"When we send them out there, you expect they will be home in two months, never expecting that. It's a training thing and everybody is supposed to come home," said a retired Marine wife, Colleen Hicks.

On Tuesday night, the Associated Press erroneously reported that eight Marines were killed. Officials on base told 9 On Your Side Wednesday morning that 7 were killed, 8 injured.

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