Two Marine Raiders and a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC) are being investigated for the death of an American defense contractor and former Special Forces soldier in Iraq.
Rick Rodriguez was working with Lockheed Martin in Erbil, in northern Iraq. On New Year’s Eve, he instigated an altercation with the investigated Marines and sailor that quickly turned physical. According to the Department of Defense (DoD), after receiving initial care by medical personnel on site, he was promptly evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Despite the doctors’ best efforts there, Rodriguez succumbed to his wounds shortly thereafter.
As of now, details of what began the scuffle remain vague. According to the Daily Beast, the fight began in the gym. Reports also indicate that the two Marine Raiders are both gunnery sergeants (E-7). It appears there were numerous witnesses to the assault.
Major Nick Mannweiler, a spokesperson from MARSOC, said the command is “aware of the non-combat-related death of a contractor supporting a forward-deployed MARSOC unit in the Operation Inherent Resolve theater of operations. MARSOC is providing all requested support to investigators as they look into this incident.”
In a statement to the Marines Corps Times, a Lockheed Martin spokesperson said, “Lockheed Martin was saddened to learn of the loss of one of our employees, who was fatally injured while supporting special operations forces within the Operation Inherent Resolve area of operations in a non-combat related incident.”
He added, “We are supporting the Naval Criminal Investigative Service as they conduct an investigation into the circumstances of his death. Our thoughts are with his family and friends, and we are committed to supporting them during this difficult time.”
A 20-year veteran, Rodriguez served in the 7th Special Forces Group. He leaves behind a wife and four children.
Alongside other American special operations forces (SOF) in Iraq and Syria, MARSOC teams are providing training and joint terminal attack control (JTAC) assistance to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the Kurdish Peshmerga in their fight against ISIS.
Editor’s note: The headline was updated on May 13, 2020 as the original title did not accurately reflect what was later discovered to have occured. Additional information was modified to reflect current reports.