CAMP LEJEUNE — Four days after a Marine KC-130T airplane crashed carrying seven members of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion along with nine reservists, Marine Corps Special Operations Command Deputy Commander Col. Steven J. Grass addressed the media and formally announced the names of the fallen from prepared remarks lasting three minutes then answered questions for another six.
Grass said the “cornerstone of the Marine Corps and the Special Operation Command are people” and said the command’s “top priority right now is caring for the families of the fallen.”
Grass kept his comments focused on the seven MARSOC team members who perished along with nine Marine reservists from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 452, or VMGR-452, a reserve unit based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, New York. The flight originated Monday from Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock and was scheduled to fly non-stop to Naval Air Field El Centro in California with the MARSOC personnel then traveling to Yuma, Arizona to begin their training mission. While over LeFlore County, Mississippi, the aircraft experienced a catastrophic event causing it to spiral downward into a soybean field killing all on board.
The seven Raiders killed were Staff Sgt. Robert H. Cox, 28, from Ventura, California, Staff Sgt. William J. Kundrat, 33, from Frederick, Maryland, Sgt. Chad E. Jenson, 25, from Los Angeles, California, Sgt. Talon R. Leach, 27, from Callaway Missouri, Sgt. Joseph J. Murray, 26, from Duval, Florida, Sgt. Dietrich A. Schmieman, 26, from Benton, Washington, and U.S. Navy Petty officer 2nd Class Ryan M. Lohrey, 30, from Middleton, Indiana.
This is the second time within 28 months that same Raider Company has suffered a loss. In March 2015, seven Raiders were killed along with four Louisiana National Guardsmen during a training exercise off the coast of Eglin, Florida when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed at sea killing all on board. Grass said Monday’s crash coupled with the 2015 incident is a “tragic coincidence” but went to say that “it does not affect how we move out and care for our fallen and take care of and move on as families and an organization.”
The seven team members who died were the other half of a group of 14 Raiders who were scheduled to “conduct team level training involving small unit tactics and core mission skills” in the Yuma desert, according to Grass. Grass said the planned training exercise was expected to take place during the month of July.
Grass declined to comment on any specifics of the aircraft or the reservists aboard deferring questions to their command.
In Leflore County, Sheriff Ricky Banks says federal and local officials are still searching through the soybean fields. He said Wednesday that debris from the KC-130 is scattered over two to three miles and that it likely will take between five and six days to clean up, according to The Associated Press.
The recovery efforts more than 900 miles away from Camp Lejeune wasn’t lost on Grass who said “we are grateful for the support and the effort at the crash site and we are working closely with Marine Corps Reserve and other agencies involved as they continue to work through this mishap."
Grass asked for “respect and privacy to all the families” and expressed gratitude for the “outpouring of support from our local communities and throughout the Marine Corps and Special Operation Command and throughout the country.
MARSOC Public Affairs Officer, Maj. Nicholas Mannweiler said a special email account has been activated whereby anyone who wishes to express condolences, offer support or provide material support to those grieving can do so by sending an email to MARSOCcares@socom.mil.
Reporter Mike McHugh can be reached at 910-219-8455 or email email@example.com.