Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Whaley.

Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Whaley. (Maury County Comm./Facebook)

WASHINGTON — The Marine killed last week during a live-fire training exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif., was in the early weeks of a reconnaissance course at the service’s West Coast infantry school when he died, officials said.

Lance Cpl. Joseph D. Whaley, who turned 20 less than two weeks ago, was killed Thursday during a nighttime training session at the Marine Corps base near San Diego, the service said. It wasn’t immediately clear, however, what Whaley was doing when he was killed.

“An investigation remains ongoing into the matter and the command is in full cooperation,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. “There is no additional information available, pending the conclusion of the investigation.”

Whaley was from Maury County, Tenn., and in his fourth week of a 13-week basic reconnaissance course at the School of Infantry-West, which is one of two schools where Marines go when they complete recruit training, the service said. The other is the School of Infantry-East at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

“[The course] is the entry-level course for Marine Corps reconnaissance,” the service said. “His designated occupation was infantry student.”

Before Whaley began the reconnaissance course, he’d previously trained as a rifleman at Camp Lejeune and attended recruit training at Parris Island, S.C. The Marine Corps said he’d earned the National Defense Medal.

Whaley joined the service in July 2022, just a few weeks after he graduated from high school in Columbia, Tenn., which is in the central part of the state, the Marines said. Maury County has a population of about 100,000 people.

Established in 1942, Camp Pendleton is one of the largest Marine Corps bases in the United States that occupies 125,000 acres about 40 miles northwest of downtown San Diego. In addition to being the home of the School of Infantry-West, the base also headquarters the 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force and Marine Corps Installations West. Last month, Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett — the top noncommissioned officer at the School of Infantry-West — was relieved of duty due to a “loss of trust and confidence in his ability to perform his duties.”

A Camp Pendleton sign sits outside the main gate of the Marine Corps base in Southern California.

A Camp Pendleton sign sits outside the main gate of the Marine Corps base in Southern California. (UT File Photo/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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