Two Commanders in Marine Corps' West Coast Infantry School Fired on Same Day

The entrance to Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton
The entrance to Marine Corps base Camp Pendleton is seen on Sept. 22, 2015, in Oceanside, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

The Marine Corps relieved two commanders at its West Coast infantry school earlier this month, citing "loss of trust and confidence in their ability to execute the responsibilities of their commands," according to a statement from the service on Thursday.

Col. Seth "S.W." MacCutcheon, the commander of the School of Infantry-West, and Maj. Nicholas Engle, the commander of the Reconnaissance Training Company, were both relieved on March 8 by Brig. Gen. Farrell Sullivan, the commanding general of the service's training command.

Both units are based out of Camp Pendleton, California, and follow five other firings of leaders in charge of training programs in the Marine Corps in the last eight-plus months. The reconnaissance training company is a subordinate unit to the School of Infantry-West, also known as SOI-W.

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A spokesperson for the service would not specifically say why the firings occurred and if they were related. However, they occurred on the same day.

"There were a number of factors that informed the commanding general of Training Command with sufficient information for him to come to the determination that a relief was appropriate," Maj. Joshua Pena, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps, told on Thursday.

The relief of MacCutcheon comes months after the school's top enlisted leader was also relieved, again for loss of trust and confidence. The Marine Corps did not disclose then why Sgt. Maj. Steven Burkett -- known as "Sergeant Major Kettlebell" for his athletic accomplishments -- was fired, though Burkett was fired by MacCutcheon himself in July.

The SOI-W firings were unrelated and Burkett's relief was "specifically tied to that individual," according to Pena.

Last year on the East Coast, three top leaders at one of the Marine Corps' recruit training depots were relieved from their positions. Specifically, the commander, senior enlisted adviser and executive officer of Parris Island's Recruit Training Regiment were relieved or reassigned within roughly two months of each other.

Prior to that, a senior enlisted leader assigned to Quantico's Basic School was fired after she struck two teenage pedestrians in an alleged drunk-driving incident.

Altogether, seven known leaders in training leadership positions have been relieved or reassigned since last June, a span of just over eight months. Those commands are generally responsible for molding new Marines.

Pena, the spokesperson, said Training Command "is committed to ensuring leaders at all levels fulfill their duties to deliver the most highly qualified Marines to the operating forces safely and efficiently."

When asked to comment on the totality of firings or reassignments, he said that the highest levels of command take the responsibilities of commanders and any action requiring a relief "very seriously."

Pena said no additional information was available by publication.

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