Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Training draws scrutiny after Marine drowns
"If he was such a good swimmer, how did he drown during a training exercise with the Marines?" That is what I asked myself when I was first assigned the story of Staff Sgt. Andrew Gonzales...and I am still asking myself that question.

Gonzales was a strong swimmer. His wife called him a "fish." All he ever wanted was to be a Marine Drill Instructor. After accomplishing that goal, he was handpicked because of his water survival skills to train to become a Marine Combat Water Survival Instructor. But just six days into training, he died. How did it happen?

According to the Marines' preliminary investigation, Gonzales was in an exercise where instructors grab students to simulate being grabbed by a distressed swimmer. Three times, Gonzales failed to escape his instructor's hold. According to the report, witnesses heard Sgt. Gonzales yelling "let me go" several times that morning.

Shortly before his final breath, Gonzales was "breathing rapidly" and "visibly uncomfortable," according to witnesses.

So why did Staff Sgt. Gonzales have to die? How tough is too tough when it comes to training?

It's the Marines' policy not to allow a rest in between rescue exercises like Gonzales was performing. It's also their policy not to let the student go until he's successfully performed the exercise. Gonzales died after his third attempt. Four marines are now charged with dereliction of duty and two of them face more serious charges of manslaughter and negligent homicide. They have not entered a plea yet.

One former marine we spoke with for our story, which airs tonight, says the training has to be tough in order to turn out tough marines. "This isn't the boy scouts," he said. Sgt. Gonzales refused to get in the swim tank the morning he died, but he was told to "get in the pool or be dropped from the course," according to the investigation. An hour later he was dead.

Do you think the Marines should reconsider how tough they are on their recruits and others in training? Where do you draw the line?
Posted By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent: 2:44 PM ET
As tragic this Marine's death is, he did not have to enter the water that day. He did so to avoid being dropped from the course. The Marine training has to be tough otherwise they cannot do their jobs effectively. As the wife of a retired Marine, I have seen firsthand the demanding nature of their jobs and I have come to understand it. There is nothing requiring men to join the USMC and they know very well the risks involve when they do.
Posted By Anonymous Melanie, New Bern NC : 3:35 PM ET
Only Sgt. Gonzales knew if he was ready and able to perform the exercise. If Gonzales decided to enter the swim tank after initially refusing, we can only infer he may have not been ready.

Training must be tough. Not every scenario will allow for rest and training should reflect that. Gonzales's death is a tragedy, but lowering training standards will only increace the risk of death.
Posted By Anonymous Pete, Grand Rapids, Michigan : 3:36 PM ET
I know the Marines are notoriously tough and they pride themselves on it, but if a trainee is expressing real concerns about their health, I think they deserve to at least be examined by a medical professional who can then make the final decision as to whether the person should continue with the exercise or not. I haven't seen the story yet of course, but it sounds like the instructors assume all complaints about exercises are out of laziness and the thought that that they could be legitimate doesn't enter their minds.
Posted By Anonymous AM, Piscataway, NJ : 3:37 PM ET
Obviously a man needs to be in excellent condition to be in any occupation in the military, but it is the job of an instructor to realize in training that the trainee is not up to par in that particular area. The USMC clearly needs to increase instructor training.
Posted By Anonymous Steve, Charleston WV : 3:42 PM ET
Let the Marines run the Marine Corp.
Posted By Anonymous R Rugless Detroit Mi : 3:47 PM ET
Truly a terrible thing to happen. At the same time, harsh USMC training produces the greatest warriors of the 20th & now 21st century. No time outs in a war.
Posted By Anonymous Charles Kemp, Dallas, TX : 3:47 PM ET
So far, the story has not revealed the cause of death. We are not told a suspected murder took place. If the Marine drowned, there is dereliction of duty. All training has to keep safety standards. There is nothing in the story to denote training was "too tough". I'd rather see what the cause of death is before jumping to a conclusion.
Posted By Anonymous Ray Bowen, Bel Air, MD : 3:52 PM ET
I feel very sorry for the family but
this can't be the complete story. I have been through Marine Corps training and through every exercise watched the safety measures the corps took to ensure our safety, I would like to hear the full story.
Posted By Anonymous REX---orlando : 3:53 PM ET
It is a little difficult to comment on this story since there are is a lot left to be determined.

As far as being too tough on recruits: If Gonzales was such a strong swimmer and was picked to be trained as a Combat Water Survival Instructor, why would he be reluctant to even get in the pool to start with?

How could this happen with a pool full of Marines & instructors? (Could it be possible they had something against Gonzales?)

I know that Marine training is tough but you don't hear about things like this all the time. Who knows how often injuries and such occur during their training. A lot is left to be answered.
Posted By Anonymous Brian - Flushing, Michigan : 3:54 PM ET
I was not a marine, but was in the army. The training is tough so that when it really counts you will be ready. It is sad that this young Marine parrished but the others that passed will be better off for it. If you make the classes easy everyone in the long run will suffer for it.
Posted By Anonymous Robert Cooper, Alcoa TN : 3:54 PM ET
the marines is not and should not be like to russian army. it should reflect american values. if anyone wants to justify this death by stating as one marine did that the "marines is not the boy scouts", then that marine has no idea how to train others and is a failure of a leader. the israelis train with live ammo and rarely does anyone of their soldiers die from live fire training. here, the only weapons involved were someone's arms and lack of using his brain cells. a marine who does not think is useless to the corps and brings shame on it from tragedies like this!
Posted By Anonymous mordechai, san francisco, ca : 3:55 PM ET
This marine was practicing a serious excersize with potential fatal consequences. Why were there no saftey regulations in place; if the marines were called in for a water rescue would they bring flotation devices? Will this change future training policy for this certification?
Posted By Anonymous Bevan, Eagan, MN : 3:55 PM ET
I think that the charges are proper, and should be extended to include the entire chain of command of the training facility where this happened. The number one priority should always be the safety of the individuals in training. This is a case where the student was unable to perform the exercise, and should have just been let go from that particular program. Too many of our men and women in uniform are dying as it is to have them killed in a "Training Exercise"
Posted By Anonymous JGM, Massena NY : 3:55 PM ET
Its disgraceful...dead is not tough...when are they going to learn that people can and have died from their nutcase exercise and training procedures. The Instructor or other marines involves should be slammed with every available law there is to get them.
My symphathies to the family of this young man, it could have been any of our own sons, brother or nephew.
Posted By Anonymous Sylvia Gates, Frederick, Md : 3:56 PM ET
My brother just graduated from Boot Camp at Parris Island, the toughest training he's ever been through. Before my family had first hand experience with this, I would have said the training was too tough. But, to see those young men turned into Marines, and know they were nearly fully prepared to defend our country, my position has done a 360. I think Marines need tough training so that they can continue to make our armed forces something to be reckoned with.
Posted By Anonymous Brandee, Longwood Florida : 3:56 PM ET
No, they should not reconside how tough their training is. Every day the training gets easier and easier because of all of the recruits that probably should not have been here in the first place complaining. It is the Marines, it is supposed to be TOUGH. Staff Sgt Gonzales's death is absolutely unfortunate, but it sounds like the instructors were at fault, not the training itself. If you want easier training, join another branch, don't come whining to us!
Posted By Anonymous Kristen, San Diego CA : 3:57 PM ET
Randi, Suggesting he was a strong swimmer because his wife said he's a fish, is far fetched. If you told us his wife is a sound evaluator of swimming talent, and why, then you might have justification. Ask her how quickly he could swim 100 meter free. Ask her if he swam competitively in high school. Most importantly, whether or not one is a strong swimmer isn't as relevant when people are grabbing you. Being a strong wrestler, and average swimmer, may be more appropriate. That said, what happened was tragic and disgusts me.
Posted By Anonymous Dan NY, NY : 3:57 PM ET
i don't see any controversy here. of course the training has to be as tough as possible.
Posted By Anonymous john, cambridge, ma : 3:58 PM ET
Marines are made to be the best not matter what there are those time where i has crossed the line but to one marine to another we would never let one of our own die.
Posted By Anonymous mike, salt lake city, utah : 3:58 PM ET
There are definitely some exercises in the military I believe are too harsh. I think one of the ideas for the military is to create an attitude that you can handle anything. That being said, there are still limitations that the body can withstand & not withstand. Along with any training to become more "robotic" for the sake of war, there needs to be additional "human" training for sympathy for injured/wounded, including their own men!!
Posted By Anonymous Cindy N. Palatine, IL : 3:59 PM ET
I absolutely do think that the Marines should reconsider how tough they are on recruits. I can't believe that his requests to "let me go" went unfulfilled. I'm glad that I don't have to sleep with that on my conscience.
Posted By Anonymous Jean, Savannah, GA : 3:59 PM ET
After 3 attempts, and he couldn't get away, the illminded marine holding him should've let him go. Some rules are made to be broken and in this case this was one of them - IDIOT!! A life lost is something that can NEVER be brought back. Obviously the rules need to some revising. Why didn't someone jump in to try and help!? They had better be glad I'm not his wife. I'd be sure whoever responsible received the maximum punishment as well as permanent dismissal from the marines. God Bless his family and friends!!
Posted By Anonymous Jenn Cooper, Lynchburg, VA : 4:00 PM ET
A distressed swimer would not let go. The Marines need to train to real life situations.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Centerville GA : 4:00 PM ET
The training should not be changed. The instructor(s) who killed Staff Gonzales due to their over- aggressiveness and ineptitude should be changed.
The USMC is responding appropriately.
Posted By Anonymous Manuel Chavira Jr. Fullerton, CA : 4:01 PM ET
Unfortunately, this behavior is typical in that there is a spiral of macho brinksmanship in these type of situations. What the instructors ignored, are well established rules of safety first in all training exercises. While the former Marine quoted is correct in stating that "it's not the boyscouts", the instructors were derelict in their duty to take a step back and think through why the student was failing. I hope that their un-Marine behavior is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
Posted By Anonymous Geoff Goodman, Atlanta, GA : 4:04 PM ET
No, the Marines should not reconsider how tough they are on recruits and Marines. We train for an extremely demanding, dangerous, and stressful job. The harder we train here, the better we perform when it counts. Honestly, I wish they were tougher on recruits and Marines.
Posted By Anonymous Andy, Camp Lejuene, NC : 4:04 PM ET
If you are to be a Drill Iinstructor and train recruits in water survival, you must be trained extensively or risk the loss both yourself and the recruit in the event of a training emergency.
I went through boot camp many years ago and can tell you the training is not easy. It is not designed to be easy, as you are training to be a Marine.
Safety procedures are in place to protect trainees. If the instructors ignored those procedures, they are in the position they should be in.
Boot Camp is designed to break down a recruit mentally and physically to build them into a Marine. Training is no day at the beach, it is to keep them alive in combat.
Posted By Anonymous Carl, Sarasota, FL : 4:04 PM ET
As a former Marine, I agree with the gentleman in the article. The course he was in was one designed to turn out the best swimmers. He should have bowed out of the course if he was shouting "let me go" while in the swim tank.
Posted By Anonymous Gary W. Des Plaines, IL : 4:06 PM ET
I am an active duty Marine, former Drill Instructor and Marine Combat Instructor of Water Survival (MCIWS). The MCIWS course is, without a doubt, the most challenging (physically) course I have ever attended. Only those Marines identified as superior swimmers were selected to attend the course (at least when I attended in 1992), and even then the attrition rate was close to 40%. Teaching recruits water survival is extremely important and inherently dangerous. Accidents happen, and I hope those charged acted according to regulation and policy.

Marines are tough on recruits and Drill Instructors. The main thing that seperates the USMC and the other services is Marine Boot Camp and the intensity and professionalism of the Drill Instructor.
Posted By Anonymous Carl Hutter, Honolulu, HI : 4:07 PM ET
I think that us discussing where to draw the line on training men who must do incredibly dangerous things for a living is pointless. If I were you, I would ask more members of the service if they think this is too extreme, not an average civilian who is clueless about the stresses of combat and other dangerous situations that military duty entails...
Posted By Anonymous Matt Norris, Columbia, Missouri : 4:08 PM ET
SSgt Gonzales knew the risks associated with 1) becoming a Marine, 2) becoming a drill instuctor, and 3) becoming a Combat Water Survival Instructor. When given the option to get in the pool or drop from the course, he could've walked away. Accidents happen. Thousands of Marines go through the training a year and I'm sure many are uncomfortable and want the instructors to let them go, but they go through to pass and flourish. Were the Marine's too tough? Maybe, but not to a level that caused Gonzales' death. Training has to be tough, it is a simulation. How can he succeed in a "real world" situation if his training was lacking?
Posted By Anonymous Robert Mertins, Dam Neck, VA : 4:09 PM ET
Being a former Marine who served in Iraq, I can tell you if it werent for the toughness of my training, things would have been a lot worse for me. Why do you think we have all these problems with the Army, Navy, and Air Force? Because their training continues to be further watered down and made to be more and more politically correct. We're training these young men and women to go to combat and serve their country. Do you want a bunch of PC babies that are afraid of their own shadow, or do you want trained troops that can defend our freedom? The choice is yours...for me, its obvious.
Posted By Anonymous Travis - Joplin, MO : 4:11 PM ET
SSgt Gonzales was an exemplary Marine his rank and assignment as a Drill Instructor is more than enough to show that... For those who have had the honor to serve as a Marine you know how hard it is to swallow your pride and say something when your really sick, injured, etc. in the Marine Corps we "suck it up." If one of our leaders is yelling, "let me go" it�s not for giggles he means it. His death was a preventable tragedy, I understand that the Marine Corps needs to be tough� but at what cost?
Posted By Anonymous Sgt Marine San Diego, California : 4:11 PM ET
Absolutley Not!! Which will be the universal response from any Marine whom you would ask. Only Marines will understand as only Marines can. Frankly it is as ridiculous to ask outsiders about Marine Corps training as it is to ask somebody else to raise your kids and then criticize them for how they do so. The death of ANY Marine, be it in training, combat, or -as happens- accidents is felt by EVERY Marine. We do not take it lightly. This, of course, is something those who've never served will never understand.
Posted By Anonymous Scott Melligan, Erie, PA : 4:13 PM ET
That's a tough call. One the one hand, deaths during training are not common (are they?) so if others could handle it, perhaps it was just an unfortunate accident. On the other hand, a death can't be ignored. If the Sgt. was in distress and demanding to be let go, I would revise the rules regarding not letting go until they complete the excercise.
Posted By Anonymous AP, washington d.c. : 4:13 PM ET
I am a former Marine (86-94), and without the type of training they provide under stress, I would have been killed. I was involved in a helicopter crash in 1991, and without the survival training that was conducted under the most extreme distress, I would not have survived. Yes, I came away from the training bruised and with broken bones, but it served a purpose. I do not condone killing someone to further training, however, the training is created and conducted with a purpose, a final goal. To allow the Marine to survive at the point when the training is needed. After my crash, I had two broken legs, a broken back, jaw, 5 ribs, broken nose, torn right knee ligaments, and other cuts, I was able to get way from a burning aircraft, destroy vital communication equipment, and tend to my wounds. Thank god for that training. Now I can see my children grow, enjoy life, all because of the Marine training. Semper Fi.....
Posted By Anonymous Steve "Sugarbear", Phoenix, Az. : 4:15 PM ET
My prayers go out to his family.An old axiom is ..train as you fight, fight as you train.I think the public would be surprised how many service men and women die in training accidents. It is a dangerous and touch business. God bless them all.
Posted By Anonymous Mark O'Donnell,Eaton Rapids ,Mi. : 4:15 PM ET
My feeling is they have to simulate combat conditions. In combat you don't tell the enemy to stop so he can rest. Same goes with water survival training.
Posted By Anonymous Donald, Lexington park MD : 4:15 PM ET
, As a former Marine Rifle Platoon Leader (50+ years ago), I can attest to the need for well trained, physically tough, disciplined Marines in order for The Corps to perform it's mission. There is, however, an identical need for intelligent leaders who know when enough is enough. It's a fine line, but clearly a principal responsibility that falls on all who are chosen to lead. This case, on the surface at least, sounds like some of that was lacking. Semper Fi!
Posted By Anonymous W. Jackson, Dallas, TX : 4:20 PM ET
The United States Marine Corps has been producing some of the toughest, both mentally and physically, and most intimidating soldiers anywhere in the world. To lessen the training and lower the standards will produce Marines that will panic and lose focus in the heat of combat. When that happens Marines die. Not always the weak one, but the man on your left or right. That is not acceptable. The instructors at PI have a duty to every other Marine on the battlefield to produce an individual with the mental fortitude to do their job and do it well.
Posted By Anonymous Ed, Denver CO : 4:20 PM ET
As a former US Marine I feel for his family but cant help but feel something is amiss.I remember being in the pool with no problems while watching other Marines who were not very good swimmers strugle to stay afloat. The drill instructors would always say dont worry they wont let you drown but you will surely think so before they pull you out.This is done to prevent Marines from quiting to soon.Often a person does not know his or her own limits untill they are pushed to them.We often surprise ourselfs with what we are capable of doing when pushed.I dont believe this Marine was pushed to far but rather is the victim of something else.At this point nobody knows.God rest his soul.Semper Fidelis
Posted By Anonymous Bob, Dover, De : 4:20 PM ET
It's the Marines--if you want to take it easy, join the Army, Navy, or AirForce!
Posted By Anonymous Dave Dillon, Tacoma, WA : 4:23 PM ET
We are a nation at war and as such we place an extremely high importance on the training we give our troops. How many more lives could have been lost abroad if the men and women training the members of our armed forces had "backed off?" We are the United States Military and our nation is at war. Give us every means to win this war and come home safely, and while training accidents are regrettable, they are also inevitable. If anything let us learn from them, but do not let us be hobbled by them.
Posted By Anonymous Mike, USAF at RAF Lakenheath, UK : 4:23 PM ET
No one feels worse then the Marines who where there. We are a brotherhood of arms, at no time do we want to see one die. The choice to continue to train or drop out of the course was there. What made this Marine a cut above was his desire to meet the challenge. The enemy will not adhere for a chance for one to catch your breath. Once a Marine always a Marine. Let the Corp take care of itself.
Posted By Anonymous Joe V, Lansing MI : 4:23 PM ET
I attended and graduated from this course. The training is tough. The hours spent in the pool are long. The physical training is rigorous. The rescue exercises represent realistic scenarios, such as the Marine would encounter in a rescue attempt. The course included at that time swimming in the pool, river and ocean. In spite of all the training received, water rescue is physically taxing and inherently dangerous to the rescuer. The students learn how exhuasting ocean rescue is in the beach rescue phase of the training. The confidence received in the course aided me in my duties as the swimming instructor & life guard for our unit. I would recommend no changes to this course.
Posted By Anonymous F. Kienast, Wilmington NC : 4:24 PM ET
An unfortunate accident.

This man was not a recruit. It was a level of training he chose. His pride in his title, his ability and his courage are what got him in that pool.

To have let him go when he asked, the first, last or any time would have been breaking the training.

Should there be safeguards in place-- sure. what would you suggest the safeguards be when a Marine is pulling another person out of the water in combat?
Posted By Anonymous Joanne, Canonsburg PA : 4:24 PM ET
Unforgiving training for an unforgiving job. The training's there for a reason.
Posted By Anonymous Patrick, Westlake, OH : 4:25 PM ET
First of all, Gonzales was not a recruit. A recruit is someone who is in boot camp and has not yet become a Marine. SSgt Gonzales falls under the "others" category in your question. Training is more lax in many ways for recruits. Surely, there is more yelling recruits than for Marines in training, but the expectations are much higher for the Marine than they are be for a recruit.

I am a former Marine Sergeant; I got out relatively recently (2002). Having said that, I would say that no, the Marines should not reconsider how tough they are in training neither recruits nor others.

SSgt Gonzales' death is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to his family, but I hope for the sake of pilots and crew members of aircraft that are downed over water that the Corps does not lessen their strict training requirements for CWS Instructors. I suspect that an investigation into the incident will reveal some sort of human error and not an error in the methodology of the training.

Marines have to train hard, because in this case there is no way to tell a panicked and distressed swimmer to let go. Nor is there any way to tell the enemy to stop firing because you need a break or because you are uncomfortable.
Posted By Anonymous Halen, Erie PA : 4:25 PM ET
It is always a sad day when a Marine dies in training. As a former Marine, I have seen these stories all too often. First, I would like to send my deepest condolences to the family of SSgt. Gonzales. The cold hard truth is that he wanted to succeed. Marine training is often an exercise of finding one's limits and trying to exceed them. Sometimes that has disastrous results, but it serves to ready us for being in dangerous situations. I know there are safe guards put in place to make training exercises as safe as possible. I wish the best for those Marines who were responsible. I can only hope they were diligent in their duties and that this is a case of being just a very tragic accident. The last question in the post isn't accurate. This was a seasoned Marine. A Staff Non-Commissioned Officer who was himself responsible for his own staff and who was working to be a Drill Instructor. The Marines have to be tough that is our time honored tradition and is what allows us to do the work that is set before us. Semper Fidelis
Posted By Anonymous Joshua, Independence, MO : 4:28 PM ET
There is a reason that the Marines are what they are......and it's not from doing things the easy way.
With that being said, everyone who knew this Marine would disagree and rightfully so. I am sorry for their loss. I respectfully apologize for sounding insincere. This is a horrible tragedy and I feel that someone at that training facility cost this Marine his life. As a former Marine though, I do not feel that the training itself is or was too hard. I hope it does not change due to this horrible accident. But it is what it is, an accident and the neglegent individuals should be dealt with. How often do we hear about things like this happening? Not very often. We all know that soldiers die while training because lets be honest, it's not exactly the safest profession.
Rest in peace Devil Dog!!
Posted By Anonymous Bill Beyer, Pottstown PA : 4:28 PM ET
I think men like Sgt. Andrew Gonzales are hero's, regarding their memories, they and their families should be given ultimate respect and honor. He chose and volunteered to make a third attempt, no-one forced him, he did it to go above and beyond.
As for the men involved, I hope the investigation is led by common-sense, and impartial personnel. I find it hard to believe that any Marine would let another die out of negligence, or in pushing the envelope. I feel they would have to make the training as realistic as possible - this will ultimately save more lives in an actual combat scenario. It is sad that they may be face criminal charges. I hope the men judging them have been there, done that... and are not the type to retain a blind eye in understanding the truth.
Posted By Anonymous Bob Dexter Amarillo, Texas : 4:28 PM ET
My son went through Marine boot camp at Parris Island. He told me that the only time he was scared was during the water training where they are to jump into water over their head with full gear.
Posted By Anonymous Bud, Glen Burnie, Maryland : 4:28 PM ET
Yes. I think the training is too severe and those responsble for his death should be held accountable.
Posted By Anonymous Leimomi Stender-Jenkins, Honolulu, Hawaii : 4:31 PM ET
I was in the Navy, and I can tell you first hand that a distressed person will fight to keep his/her head above water. If that means standing on you to do so they will.
The training required has to be tough. I went through basic water skills and survival, and was trained as a rescue swimmer. That training for the Navy is very similar to the Marines, and if what I went through to get qualified is any indication of what the marines do then NO, that should not change.
Not only did that training save my life, but two of my buddies as well.
You cannot give these guys/gals, who train in water survival, a second chance. They have to put their heart and minds into this or they are lost. Someone somewhere will die because of faulty or inadiquit training. It has to be tough.
You would not want an airline pilot partially trained know would you?
Posted By Anonymous Sean C, Phoenix, AZ : 5:04 PM ET
The Marine Corps revolves around water. It really does. Marines are known for amphib assaults from water to beach. Plus, the word marine means water. Because of this, the USMC must put more emphasis on water-related training than anything else. And it has to be tough, real tough, so that when a REAL water survival situaution does occur, a Marine will have no problem saving themselves or others. Just like boot camp in general: if you can accomplish the hardest thing, then everything else will be easy. Marine water survival training needs to be tougher than normal for that reason. Yeah, it's very sad that a Marine died during this training, but I don't think it should get an easier. It should remain as tough as it has always been.
Posted By Anonymous Dillon, Matthews, NC : 5:05 PM ET
The Marine Corps is just that, The CORPS. Since November 10th 1775 it has turned out the deadliest weapon we have, a United States Marine Rifleman. There is no substitute, no middle ground, no half measure. To lose a Marine, just one is a sad day. The mission of the Marine Corps is to make sure the other SOB gives his life for his country, not ours. Sgt Gonzales should not have died. But the way the Corps has trained, has produced the Warriors of yesterday, today and tomorrow. Semper Fi!
Posted By Anonymous GySgt R. Paschall, USMC Ret. Redlands, CA. : 5:20 PM ET
Combat Water Survival Instructor Course is no joke. Every Marine that volunteers for the school knows this. And it's never "get in the pool or be dropped from the Corps", only the course. Did I mention the title of the course is COMBAT Water Survival? It's always a tragic loss when a Marine dies. It's a loss to his family, the Corps, and this country. I've been a Marine for 12 yrs and many things we do in training are often extremely dangerous. The purpose of this course is to train Marines to train other Marines to survive in the water while fatigued, possibly while fending off the enemy. If you intend to instruct others, you'd better be able to do as you've instructed. The Marine Corps exists to kick in the door, and we train to that standard. Semper Fi!
Posted By Anonymous Tony, Beaufort, SC : 5:22 PM ET
Hi there, I'm Michelle Gonzales, the widow of SSgt. Andrew J. Gonzales, of Houston, Texas. I am disturbed at the many comments posted by individuals that do not know the whole story. If you don't know the whole story, perhaps you should not comment on it. Freedom of speech and all aside, the training that my husband was going through, as a Drill Instructor, with 6+ years in service, did not have a safety program in place, hence the reason the two of the four individuals are being charged with dereliction of duty...because they were derelict in their duty to make sure the program was being conducted according to safety rules...there were none in place at the time of my husband's death. There supposedly is now. Individuals responsible for looking out for swimmers in distress were not doing their job. Safety officers or "lifeguards" were all in the water and not performing their crutial duties. Many, many things went drastically wrong that day. Had some of the life saving equipment been used, my husband would still be with me and the Corps today. The Corps lost one stellar Marine on August 1, 2005, whose only goal in life was to become a D.I. at MCRD, where he himself was a recruit back in 1998. His other goal was to have a child.

While I realize everyone has an opinion in this case, especially former military who know how difficult much of the training is, I honestly hope that some of your opinions will be altered after you see the program, and after you all have more information, which hopefully will be forthcoming. By the way, he died almost two weeks to the day that he was told by his 1st Sgt. that he "...didn't belong there..." MCRD has a very bad reputation as being one for one, not all for one. Many of the D.I.s simply care about obtaining their campaign cover, and not about the lives of those they are getting ready to affect. My husband cared and wanted to make a difference. Until they realize that they don't have to kill, or practically kill, someone to make them "tough" these tragedies are going to continue. Until the "officers" come out of their offices every now and then to see what their subordinates are actually doing, this will continue...whether the public finds out about it or not.
Posted By Anonymous Michelle Gonzales, San Antonio, Texas : 9:49 PM ET
Why did CNN choose to have an out of shape, former soldier on live to talk about Marine Corps training. He has zero idea what it's like to be a Marine, or anything that we do. What a joke. I allowed them to interview me for an hour on this story and they cherry picked it down to 30 seconds.
While my heart goes out to SSGT Gonzalez's wife and family, I do not think that training should be altered as a result of this accident. If the Marines leading the training are found to be negligent, they will be punished.
Posted By Anonymous Jay Platt, GySgt (ret) USMC, Jacksonville, NC : 11:47 PM ET
Having been a Marine, the people who disregard this as a "Rough and Tough" training experience and the ones to note that "It's the Marines, You should know what your getting into", needs to seriously take a step back.

Every training environment that I put myself through had rigorous saftey procedures to follow and in this training environment there was simply a falure of leadership. I don't care what anybody says, there were signs that could have been picked up on and the instructors should have picked up on them. SSgt Ganzales should have been droped from the course! NOT droped from the world!

This is another fine example of friendly fire, only without a bullet.
Posted By Anonymous David McGraw, Manhattan Kansas : 9:57 AM ET
There is an old saying in the Marine Corps. "The more you sweat in peace the less you bleed in war". Never forget that these men are being training to survive under combat conditions.

Having said that, your article already admits that after what I am sure was a very thorough investigation, the Marine instructors involved in this incident have been charged and will face courts-martial for dereliction of duty.

Never forget that the Marines are a microcosm of the US population. We are in that way, much like any other small town around the country. And, sadly, like any small town, we have a percentage of misguided individuals as well who don't always adhear to the organizations standards of conduct. They are usually ferreted out and disciplined and/or discharged, as I assume these instructors will be for their inappropriate conduct.

Please don't malign the Marine Corps reputation for the acts of a few misguided individuals.
Posted By Anonymous Ed Hogan (GySgt USMC Ret.) Clawson, Michigan : 2:42 PM ET
I an saddened by Sgt Gonzales death. By being in the service of his country he represents the best of Americas youth.
Sgt Gonzales had the choice to drop out of the course. But he chose to stay. That was his choice. He reaped the consequence of that decision
The instructors who were in the water with him and who are them selves qualified Marine Combat Water Survival Instructors failed to recognize that Sgt Gonzales was no longer the rescuer but the rescuee. They could have stopped the excercise at any time but they chose not to. That was their choice. Now they will pay the consequence of that decision. They allowed a fellow Marine to die when it was wll within their grasp to save him. They have failed in their duty to the Corps and their fellow Marines.
If any thing the course now needs to be tougher, for the instructors were obviously not properly qualified them selves to serve in their positions. And they had been to the same course.
Posted By Anonymous Ted Austin Tx : 2:45 PM ET
As a Marine, I understand that we and the way we train can be considered harsh and cruel. The world is a dangerous place and you have to be up to the task if you are going to defend it. The marine that died, knew the risks of joining. His choice was get in the tank or drop out, he chose to get it the tank and for whatever reason he died. It is sad because as a Marine we feel the loss when a Brother dies. Ours is a tight knit fraternity that many aspire to be in, but few earn the right and Title. You make a choice to become a Marine and it is dangerous, but it is your choice. Peace does not come free, not in wartime nor in peacetime.
Posted By Anonymous Pete Hernandez, Alhambra, CA : 2:47 PM ET
What a quandry - how can you simulate real-world wartime exercises - simulate the fear and desperation that people feel in those times - without putting them through a realtime scenario - and from a leadership selection perspective that's when they can identify the people who won't panic in an emergency situation - this young man's death is very tragic - but these cases are infrequent - what would the cost be if a person who panics is put into a leadership role and the result is the death of many more. I think we should let the Marines do their job - it's in their interest to protect their resources (men and women) and still expect and extract the most from them.
Posted By Anonymous Gary, Long Valley, NJ : 7:41 PM ET
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