Southold Marine will be court martialed over alleged desecration of Taliban corpses

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola at a welcome home party at McDonald’s in Mattituck last October.

One of the two U.S. Marines who will be court martialed for urinating on dead Taliban fighters and posing for photographs with the corpses in Afghanistan last year is from Southold.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola, 27, a 2003 graduate of Southold High School, was charged in the incident, which occurred in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on or about July 27, 2011, according to a press release from the Department of Defense. Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin, 35, whose address has not been released, was also charged in the incident Monday, officials said.

The incident allegedly took place during a counterinsurgency operation near Sandala in the Musa Qala district of Helmand province. The incident came to light after a video popped up on YouTube in January, prompting military officials to launch several investigations, the DOD said.

Staff Sgt. Deptola, the father of two children, was the subject of a Suffolk Times story last October, when he returned from Afghanistan less than three months after the date of the alleged incident.

“The war over there is pretty much a sniper war,” he told us. “We’re getting shot at on a daily basis and we put ourselves in harm’s way on purpose.”

During his seven-month tour, one member of his platoon was killed and six were injured, we reported.

“We’d go out in the middle of the night and begin observing as soon as the sun went up,” he told us. “The enemy would be shooting from 1,000 yards away from a 12-inch hole in a wall.”

His seven months there seemed a lot longer, he told us, “But when you get home it seems so quick and everything is just a blur.”

He was to remain stateside, deployed at Camp Lejeune, until November 2013, we reported. He said he hoped to return to Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola

Staff Sgts. Deptola and Chamblin were also charged for other misconduct that took place during the same July 2011 operation, including being derelict in their duties by failing to properly supervise junior Marines, failing to require junior Marines to wear their personal protective equipment, failing to stop and report the misconduct of junior Marines, failing to report the negligent discharge of a grenade launcher and failing to stop the indiscriminate firing of weapons, officials said.

Additionally, Staff Sgt. Deptola, who is assigned to 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, at Camp Lejeune, N.C.,  is charged with failing to stop the unnecessary damaging of Afghan compounds and wrongfully and indiscriminately firing a recovered enemy machine gun, officials said.

The DOD release did not feature a date for the trial to begin. Attempts to reach Staff Sgt. Deptola’s family members were unsuccessful Tuesday.

Last month, three other Marines received nonjudicial punishment for misconduct that came to light during several investigations into the incident. Disciplinary actions regarding other Marines will be announced at a later date, officials said.

“There are other pending cases related to this incident,” the command said in a written statement, published in the Department of Defense press release. “In order to preserve the integrity of the investigations and to ensure fair and impartial legal proceedings in the future, we will not discuss evidence or specific findings of the investigations. “We will be as forthright as possible while preserving the rights of the accused and the fairness and integrity of the military justice process.”

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