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A Marine special operator was killed in Afghanistan last year after his all-terrain vehicle unexpectedly slid into an eight-foot deep pit in the dark, a military investigation found.
Sgt. Michael Guillory, 28, sustained a mortal head wound shortly after midnight Dec. 14, according to documents obtained by Marine Corps Times through the Freedom of Information Act. He was deployed at the time to Puzeh, a village in Helmand province’s Sangin district where Guillory’s team with Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command was training Afghan Local Police.
Guillory and his Marine special operations team were preparing for an air-drop of supplies near the village, which required him to establish communications with the aircraft’s pilots and place infrared strobe lights to mark the drop zone for them. On the way to the drop zone, however, he and his light all-terrain vehicle fell in the pit, pinning him beneath it, according to the investigation, completed by Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force - Afghanistan.
A senior medic and others on the team rushed to his side, according to the documents, released by U.S. Central Command. Guillory was rushed by aircraft to a nearby medical facility at Forward Operating Base Shukvani, where he was declared deceased.
It was difficult to see the night of the crash, and recent rain had left the the trail from the “village stability platform” to the drop zone covered in puddles, the investigation noted. Guillory was wearing his helmet and body armor at the time of the crash.
“While driving with his [night-vision device], Sgt. Guillory may have tried to avoid a large puddle without noticing the large pit nearby,” the documents said. “He most likely miscalculated the location of the trail and hit the top side bump of the pit. He then fell into the pit, and the LATV landed on top of him.”
The investigating officer suggested that Guillory’s vehicle should have been equipped with a safety harness, but stressed that his death was not due to misconduct. His MARSOC team planned to make sure all of the team’s LATVs had harnesses installed, the documents said.
A spokesman for MARSOC, Maj. Jeff Landis, told Marine Corps Times shortly after Guillory’s death that the sergeant had died in a vehicle accident while collecting supplies, but other details about the incident were not disclosed at the time. He was a critical skills operator deployed with 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, out of Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Reached by Marine Corps Times on Monday, Guillory’s mother said she had not seen the investigation’s report, but that the details in it matched what members of the fallen Marine’s team told her after they returned to the U.S. in July.
“His MARSOC team has been amazing,” said the mother, Gina Guillory. “They’ve been really, really good to me.”
The sergeant joined the Marine Corps in 2003 and became a combat engineer, according to a biography provided by MARSOC. He shifted in 2007 to the elite reconnaissance community, where he served as a scout with 1st Recon Battalion, out of Pendleton. He joined MARSOC in 2009.
Guillory had two siblings, including Gunnery Sgt. Tiffany Guillory, a Marine stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., his mother said. He loved soccer and CrossFit workouts, and downplayed his service when asked about it, she added.
“His big comment,” she said, “was, ‘No big deal. No big deal. We get it done.’”