Training Blast Kills Seven Marines

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Marine photo / Lance Cpl. Christofer P. Baines

A Marine loads an M224 60 mm mortar as part of live-fire exercise at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, Nev., June 19, 2011.

Seven Marines were killed late Monday in Nevada when a 60mm mortar round apparently exploded prematurely inside its firing tube during a live-fire exercise.

The accompanying photograph shows a Marine loading a 60mm round at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, the same post where the Marines died. Folks tend to be surprised that such a small package can kill so many.

An investigation into the accident has begun. The depot stores ammunition, and also serves as a desert training site for troops bound to war zones. The large number killed – and another seven injured – suggests the blast occurred during a demonstration, Marines said.

“We send our prayers and condolences to the families of Marines involved in this tragic incident,” said Marine Major General Raymond Fox. “We mourn their loss, and it is with heavy hearts we remember their courage and sacrifice.”

The U.S. military likes to say that it trains hard in peacetime so that its troops don’t die in wartime.

It takes days like Monday – where more Marines perished in peacetime in an instant than died in still-troubled Iraq in all of 2012 – to remind us that peace can be hell, too.

Semper Fi.