Marines Deny Grunts' Leave Held Up Over Hunt for 2 Missing Rifles

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An M4 service rifle is staged during a training exercise at Range 5, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 10, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Christian Varney)
An M4 service rifle is staged during a training exercise at Range 5, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., June 10, 2015. (U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Christian Varney)

North Carolina-based Marines are actively searching for two rifles and a flak jacket that went missing from a training area, but officials say the incident isn't costing anyone their holiday leave.

Members of 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines at Camp Lejeune "are and have been actively searching for this gear," 1st Lt. Dan Linfante, a spokesman for 2nd Marine Division, said.

Linfante declined to say when the gear went missing, citing an ongoing investigation. But he confirmed that no one is being forced to forgo their holiday travel as the search for missing weapons continues.

"Marines are not being denied leave as a result of this incident," he said. "Leave is an important benefit afforded to all Marines, in particular during the holiday season."

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The confusion over barred leave stems from a post by an anonymous West Coast Marine that's making the rounds on social media. The post, which was shared by the creator of the popular Marine-themed "Terminal Lance" comic, states that members of 3/6 are being "held from leave" and "are on lock down" as Marines search for lost equipment.

The Naval Criminal Investigative Service is conducting the probe into the missing gear, Linfante said. The infantry division takes incidents like this "very seriously," he added.

"Accountability is key -- and trained to often -- in 2nd Marine Division," he added, deferring additional questions about the incident to NCIS.

Jeff Houston, an NCIS spokesman, confirmed the agency launched an investigation on Wednesday after the two rifles went missing. No one has been arrested or charged at this point, he said, and the investigation remains ongoing.

"Out of respect for the investigative process, and to protect witnesses, NCIS does not comment on or confirm details relating to ongoing investigations," Houston said.

Earlier this year, the two-star head of 2nd Marine Division issued a scathing letter to his Marines over what he called "a significant decline in the basic discipline of our warriors." He put the division on a daily routine that included 5:30 a.m. wake-up calls, cleaning schedules, inspections and mandatory formations.

"There are weeds growing around our buildings and work spaces and trash everywhere but the dumpsters where it belongs," Maj. Gen. David Furness wrote. "These are just a few examples of the lack of discipline seen across the board that will not be tolerated in this Division any longer."

Houston said anyone with information about the missing rifles can submit tips anonymously by visiting the NCIS website or using the NCIS Tips mobile app.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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