View Full Version : Corps sacks three commanders

04-07-06, 06:41 PM
April 07, 2006 <br />
Corps sacks three commanders <br />
Battalion under investigation in deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians <br />
<br />
By Gidget Fuentes and John Hoellwarth <br />
Times staff writers <br />
<br />
Three officers — including...

04-08-06, 08:04 AM
Three Marine Commanders Relieved of Duties
The move comes as their battalion is investigated in the November deaths of Iraqi civilians.
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
April 8, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON — A top Marine general fired a battalion commander and two company commanders Friday amid an investigation into whether Marines from the battalion wantonly killed Iraqi civilians in a November firefight.

Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, relieved Lt. Col. Jeffrey Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and two of his company commanders, Capt. James Kimber and Capt. Luke McConnell, of their duties. The three have been reassigned.

Marine Corps spokesman 2nd Lt. Lawton King said Natonski relieved the three of command because he lacked confidence in their leadership, based on their recent deployment to Iraq and a series of actions by the battalion.

It was unclear what the three officers did to lose Natonski's confidence. Under military rules, a commander can be relieved for the actions of his subordinates even if he knew nothing of those actions.

Military officials are investigating allegations by Iraqi civilians that Marines burst into several homes in Haditha, near Baghdad, on Nov. 19 and began firing indiscriminately.

Moments earlier, a Marine had been killed in a roadside bombing. When the incident first became public, the Marine Corps said the Iraqis had been killed in the explosion.

But video footage taken by the Iraqis showing the bloody bodies with gunshot wounds threw that assertion into dispute. Officials later said they had been killed in crossfire.

Fifteen Iraqi civilians were killed, including seven women and three children. Eight insurgents also were killed.

The Marine killed by the bomb was identified as Lance Cpl. Miguel Terrazas of El Paso, a member of Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion.

Investigators are attempting to determine whether other Marines, angered at Terrazas' death, went on a rampage, ignoring rules meant to minimize civilian casualties. McConnell was the commanding officer of Kilo Company.

The tape of the bodies has been shown on Iraqi television, and the Baghdad Center for Human Rights has called for an investigation.

Troops could face courts-martial for violation of Geneva Convention protections for noncombatants if the inquiry determines that action is warranted.

Haditha is considered a stronghold of insurgent support. Militant leaders are thought to have fled there after the U.S. assault on Fallouja in November 2004.

About 25,000 Marines from Camp Pendleton and Twentynine Palms recently returned to Iraq to assume responsibility for much of the so-called Sunni Triangle, an area north and west of the capital that includes Fallouja. For many of the Marines, it is their third deployment to Iraq.

Natonski relieved the three officers of command on the same day he attended a memorial service at this sprawling base for nine Marines from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, killed in November along the Syrian border.


04-09-06, 09:38 AM
Iraq update
Marines sack commanders of unit linked to rampage
But announcement doesn’t tie officers to deaths at Haditha
Knight Ridder Newspapers

HADITHA, Iraq — The Marines have relieved of duty three leaders of a unit that had responsibility for the city of Haditha, where 23 Iraqis were killed on Nov. 19.

They are Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, commander of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, and two of his company commanders, Capt. James S. Kimber and Capt. Lucas M. McConnell.

McConnell was commanding Kilo Company of the 3rd Battalion, the unit that struck a roadside bomb and led a subsequent search of the area.

The Marines’ announcement didn’t tie the disciplinary actions directly to Haditha, saying only that Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division, had lost confidence in the officers’ ability to command.

The Navy Criminal Investigative Service began an investigation in February after a Time magazine reporter passed on accounts he had received about the incident. A second investigation was opened into how the Marines initially reported the killings. The Marines said that 15 persons had been killed by the roadside explosion and that eight insurgents were killed in subsequent combat.

The three were relieved because of “multiple incidents that occurred throughout their deployment,” said Lt. Lawton King, a spokesman at the Marines’ home base at Camp Pendleton, Calif. “This decision was made independent of the NCIS investigation.”

On Nov. 19, a roadside bomb struck a Humvee on Haditha’s main road, killing one Marine and injuring two. The Marines say they took heavy gunfire afterward and thought it was coming from an area around a house. They went to investigate.

The only survivor in the house where eight were killed, a 13-year-old girl, said her family wasn’t shooting at the Marines or harboring extremists that morning. They were sleeping when the bomb exploded. And when the Marines entered their house, she said, they shot at everyone inside.

According to the death certificates, her father died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest. His wife, who was lying in bed, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head. The daughters were all shot in the chest. The father had no weapon, military officials confirmed.

Haditha, a town of about 100,000 people in Anbar province, is an insurgent bastion. Around the time of the attack, several storefronts were lined with posters and pictures supporting al-Qaida, although residents said they posted them to appease extremists.

Insurgents blend in with the residents, setting up their cells in homes next to those belonging to the town’s residents, some of them supportive.

Haditha has been the site of some of the deadliest attacks against U.S. forces. On Aug. 1, six Marine reservists were killed in an ambush. Two days later, a roadside bomb killed 14 Marines traveling in an amphibious assault vehicle just outside the town, the deadliest single attack ever on U.S. forces.

On Nov. 19, according to military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Michelle Martin-Hing, the Marines were hit four separate times by roadside bombs and were fired on multiple times by gunmen they couldn’t see.

There is as yet no official public version of what took place next.

04-11-06, 12:51 PM
April 17, 2006 <br />
Corps sacks 3 commanders <br />
Battalion under investigation in deaths of 15 Iraqi civilians <br />
<br />
By Gidget Fuentes <br />
Times staff writers <br />
<br />
Three officers — including an infantry battalion...