Marine critically injured in Hawaii 'training mishap'

A U.S. Marine inspects .50 Caliber rounds during a training exercise at Pohakuloa Training Area, on the big island of Hawaii, March 21, 2017.


By WILLIAM COLE | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: July 20, 2017

HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — A Marine officer was critically wounded after being shot during night live-fire training this month at Pohakuloa Training Area on Hawaii island, officials said.

The unidentified Marine with the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines out of Camp Pendleton, Calif., was in critical condition after the 11:05 p.m. shooting on July 12, but as of Tuesday was listed in stable condition at Tripler Army Medical Center, said Capt. Maida Zheng, a spokeswoman for the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Marine Corps did not issue a news release about the shooting, but confirmed the incident after the Honolulu Star-Advertiser learned of it. Key Hawaii County offices, including police and fire, were not aware of it until contacted by the newspaper.

Maj. Samuel Thomas with the administrative services division of the Hawaii Police Department said Pohakuloa is under federal jurisdiction and as such was not required to file a police report with the county.

The Marine, who was medevaced to Hilo Medical Center and then moved to Tripler, was part of the three-ship USS America amphibious ready group out of California, which stopped in Hawaii waters for training July 10 to Monday while heading to the Western Pacific on its first overseas deployment.

Zheng said parallel safety and command investigations are underway. She said she could not release the injured Marine’s name or rank due to Privacy Act concerns. Because of the investigation, she also could not say what happened to the individual who did the shooting, she said.

Another official said the gunshot victim, an officer with a Marine company, which normally has 150 to 200 Marines, was shot in the hip and that the bullet fragmented.

The Marine Corps said it could not confirm the shooting as being accidental, and instead characterized it as a “live-fire training mishap.”

“The command extends their gratitude to the responding medical team of U.S. Army Garrison Pohakuloa for their swift medical treatment and assistance to the 15th MEU’s corpsman,” Zheng said in an email.

The Army runs Pohakuloa Training Area, and the Marine was medically evacuated by an Army Black Hawk helicopter, officials said. Multiple service branches utilize the 133,000-acre training area.

More than 1,800 sailors and 2,600 Marines are part of the amphibious ready group and 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which recently deployed for seven months on the America, USS Pearl Harbor and USS San Diego.

The training on Oahu and the Big Island included ship-to-shore operations, a company-sized helicopter raid, combat marksmanship and fire support operations.

On Friday, two 92-foot “landing craft, air cushion” hovercraft from the Pearl Harbor and San Diego made beach runs at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, their big twin fans droning loudly and kicking up clouds of sea spray and sand that rained down a football field’s distance away. The hovercraft can carry up to 75-ton payloads and travel more than 46 miles per hour.

Amphibious ready groups routinely train in and around Hawaii, which provides the unique characteristics of a mid-Pacific island group to refine over-the-beach skills.

The America amphibious ready group left Naval Base San Diego on July 7. The Navy said the ships are scheduled to operate in the Pacific, Middle East and Horn of Africa, conducting maritime security operations, crisis response capability, theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.

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