CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — A Marine captain who allegedly pushed his troops too hard during a conditioning hike in the summer heat was charged Friday with negligent homicide in the death of a corporal.
Criminal charges resulting from deaths during military training exercises are rare.
Capt. Victor A. Arana, 28, of DuPage County, Ill., was accused of marching his unit too fast with not enough time for breaks. Investigators said his handling of the unit violated training guidelines.
Lance Cpl. Giuseppe Leto, 21, of New Milford, Conn., died after completing the eight-mile hike at Camp Lejeune on July 8. Camp Lejeune spokesman Capt. James Rich said Friday that temperatures were 80 to 85 degrees when the hike began.
Besides being charged with negligent homicide, Arana was charged with dereliction of duty and failing to obey a lawful order. If convicted, he could get more than 3 1/2 years in prison and be dismissed from the Marines.
An investigator's report, based on interviews with 30 Marines who were on the hike, said Leto was showing signs of heat-related stress--vomiting, dry heaving, excessive sweating--three miles into the hike but refused to board a vehicle carrying Marines who were unable to finish.
Afterward, Leto wandered away and collapsed. He was found unconscious nearly two hours later and was pronounced dead on the way to the base hospital. Rich said Leto's death certificate described his case as probably heat-related.
The nighttime hike was part of the training in weapon and combat techniques that Marines undergo at Camp Lejeune's School of Infantry. Another Marine died at the base during a field exercise in August when the temperature reached 90, but no charges were filed.
In another deadly exercise, three Army officers and six enlisted men received only reprimands when four Army Ranger trainees died of exposure after spending hours in chilly, chest-deep water in swamps at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., in February 1995.