Top brass at CENTCOM ceremony: Marine deaths a "tragedy"

7:17 PM, Mar 22, 2013   |    comments
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  • The change of command ceremony on Friday, March 22 at MacDill AFB saw Marine Gen. Jim Mattis step down after two-and-a-half years.
  • CENTCOM's new leader Army General Lloyd Austin III, a career Army man, becomes its first African American commander.
    
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MacDill AFB, Florida -- The change of command ceremony Friday at MacDill Air Force Base saw Marine Gen. Jim Mattis step down after two-and-a-half years.

The ceremony coincides with a pair of deadly incidents this week involving several U.S. service members - including one Marine from the Bay area.

As the change of command took place at CENTCOM, concerns swirled over two tragedies.

Overnight, an apparently murder-suicide at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia left three marines dead.

That raised the issue of gun violence even within the military and questions about adequate psychological services.
 
U.S Rep. Kathy Castor, (D) District 14, was at the ceremony and asked, "Are people getting the resources they need?"

"Suicide is at epidemic levels," said Rep. Castor, "but especially among our veterans in the military and we've got to pay better attention to it."

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in Tampa for the change of command, released a statement calling the Quantico shooting -- and a deadly mortar explosion earlier this week in Nevada that left  seven more marines dead -- a "tragedy".

Pentagon spokesman George Little, speaking on behalf of Hagel said:

"This tragedy, as well as the tragedy in Nevada earlier this week, took the lives of Marines who volunteered to serve their nation. His [Hagel's] heart and his prayers are with them and their families. He believes that the legendary strength of the United States Marine Corps will ensure that they are forever remembered."

Among those killed in the Nevada training accident was 20-year-old Lance Corporal David Fenn II, from Polk City.

Use of the 60mm mortar rounds used in that training exercise have now been suspended until investigators can figure out what went wrong.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (R), who represents Florida's 17th District, says there should be a thorough investigation, and does not want to see the tragedies politicized.

"For there to be a local boy who lost his life in this accident, it certainly makes it more personal for you and the people you represent," said Rep. Rooney. "To make sure if you're gonna send your kids into the Marine Corps, or Army as I was, that they're gonna do everything they can to make sure, that at least in the training aspect of their job, that they're safe."

CENTCOM now falls under the leadership of Army General Lloyd Austin III, a career Army man who, ironically, 10 years ago today was leading the U.S. ground invasion of Iraq.

On a historical note, he also becomes CENTCOM's first African American commander.

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

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