Lance Cpl. Matthew J. Broehm of Flagstaff, Ariz and Lance Cpl. Brandon W. Pearson of Arvada, Colo. were providing security at an outpost in Southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan when someone started shooting at them.
Witnesses say a member of the Afghan National Army (ANA) was the person who pulled the trigger. Broehm and Pearson were killed in Thursday’s attack. Both Marines were assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment based at Camp Pendleton. This was their first combat deployment.
“We offer our deepest sympathies and want to ensure all know the sacrifices these Marines have made in our commitment to the safety and security of the Afghan people,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, Commander of NATO’s Regional Command Southwest in a statement on Sunday.
Few details are being released about the circumstances leading up to the attack. The suspected ANA soldier ran away shortly after the shots were fired. NATO and Afghan Security Forces are investigating.
Camp Pendleton based Marines and Sailors have taken a lead role in training both ANA soldiers and Afghan National Police (ANP) Officers. In some cases instructors are embedded with Afghan recruits during training. They also conduct joint patrol and security operations with the ANA and ANP.
Similar attacks in the past few months on NATO forces by Afghan soldiers or police officers in other parts of Afghanistan have raised questions about security and screening during the recruiting process.
Maj. Gen. Mills does not believe the incident is a warning sign of a larger threat.
“The allegations of this criminal act are not indicative of the quality and professionalism of Afghan soldiers whom we train, mentor, and partner with,” said Mills.
The deaths of 22-year-old Lance Cpl. Broehm and 21-year-old Lance Cpl. Pearson is the latest blow for members of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. The unit has suffered heavy casualties since arriving in the volatile Sangin District late this summer. Twelve members of the 3/5 have been killed since October 8.