A deadly explosion last year that killed seven Marines and wounded eight more happened because a Marine accidentally double-loaded rounds in a mortar tube, an investigation has concluded.
The incident occurred in March 2013
at the Hawthorne Army Depot in the Nevada desert during a nighttime live-fire training exercise with 60-millimeter mortars.
The 19-page investigation report, along with hundreds of pages of accompanying interviews, shows that human error was to blame, though some responsibility was attributed to poor training and a lack of familiarity with the weapons system, according to the Marine Corps Times
, which obtained the document through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"At no time did I have a feeling that something was off or we shouldn't be doing this," said one unnamed officer who participated in the exercise, according to the Times. "In my opinion, we were doing all right ... It was just a freak accident."
The Marines with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, had just returned from a four-month deployment to Kuwait. The first time they had conducted the mortar training was two months earlier in January, but witnesses said they were highly trained, competent, and ready for the exercise, the Times notes.
The investigation concluded that four factors contributed to the tragedy: inadequate training and preparation for the complexity of the exercise; improper mortar gunnery commands and firing procedures; a "perceived sense of urgency and resultant haste" within the mortar section during the exercise; and a systemic lack of supervision of the mortar section during the exercise and in the months prior to it.
The report also says the blast was not the result of misconduct on the part of any of the victims, though it called for two other Marines to be reprimanded for failing to ensure safe conditions, proper training, and proficiency.
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