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Sgt Seth M. Algrim
Died: October 30, 2006

Marine dies during a training exercise at Pendleton
North County Times Tuesday, October 31, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON - Authorities are investigating the death of a decorated 22-year-old Marine who was shot Monday night during a training exercise at Camp Pendleton.

Cpl. Seth M. Algrim, a mortarman from Kansas assigned to the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, died at about 10 p.m. from gunshot wounds sustained during an urban combat training exercise, Lt. Esteban Vickers said. Foul play is not suspected.

Vickers did not comment specifically on Algrim's death but said that urban combat training is routinely practiced by Marine units in training areas set up as mock towns.

Urban combat exercises vary by unit, and exercises include patrolling streets, moving from building to building, and clearing buildings, Vickers said. Roleplay is also used at times, though it is unclear what Algrim's unit was practicing at the time of the shooting, he said.

Practicing in urban settings is necessary because "the world is so built up, you're not fighting in the open plains," Vickers said.

Vickers said it was also unknown how many Marines were participating in the exercise Monday night, but urban combat training can involve anywhere from four to 1,000 troops. Exercises can also last from a few hours to several days, and Vickers said he did not know how long Algrim's unit had been out.

As a mortarman, Algrim provided indirect fire support, meaning that he could be called in if the infantry was hit, Vickers said. He also performed routine infantry duties, he said.

Algrim, who joined the Marines Aug. 18, 2003, had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and his awards included the Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and National Defense Service Medal.

Algrim's accomplishments were highly regarded by his family in his tightknit hometown of Garden City, Kan., his cousin, Kristina Odneal, said Tuesday.

"Once he started talking to a recruiter, he just loved it," said Odneal, who also lives in Garden City and grew up baby-sitting Algrim and his two younger brothers. "It became a way of life for him to serve his country. He was very proud to be a Marine, and his family is very proud of his accomplishments."

Algrim had recently re-enlisted and frequently e-mailed his family and called his parents while abroad, Odneal said. Joining the Marines was "a way to get out of Kansas" after Algrim graduated from Garden City High School in 2002, where he participated in track and boxing, Odneal said.

"His boxing instructor called him a 'bull in a china cabinet.' He was small, but nothing bothered him," Odneal said.

Algrim also enjoyed riding his dirt bike, talking about old cars with his uncle and helping on his father's farm, and was chosen to be the godfather of Odneal's young daughter, she said.

"We're very proud of him, he was extraordinary," Odneal said. "He looked out for everybody; he was very loving."


Marine training death under investigation, no foul play suspected
North County Times Wednesday, November 1, 2006

CAMP PENDLETON ---- Marine investigators are trying to determine why a 22-year-old corporal on a range not normally used for live-ammunition exercises died of a gunshot wound during training, a Marine spokesman at Camp Pendleton said Wednesday.

Lt. Esteban Vickers said that no foul play is suspected in the death of Cpl. Seth M. Algrim, 22, of Garden City, Kan.

Bruce Algrim, Seth Algrim's father, said Wednesday that Camp Pendleton officials had told him that his son was shot in the head by someone in his unit.

"They said he should not have been firing live ammo and somehow he had live ammo," Algrim said in a telephone interview with the North County Times from his home in Garden City.

Algrim said Marine representatives told him they assumed the shooting was an accident.

"But they don't know," the father said. "It was a training exercise."

Vickers refused to comment on details of the shooting.

"We really can't comment on that because it's part of the ongoing investigation," the lieutenant said.

Seth Algrim was a mortar man assigned to 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, according to a written statement issued by Camp Pendleton officials Tuesday. He joined the Marines in August 2003 and won combat decorations during one deployment in Afghanistan and another in Iraq, the Marine officials said in their written statement.

Vickers said Algrim was with about 50 to 100 other Marines at the time he was shot in an area of small, mock cinder block buildings used to simulate urban combat conditions.

Urban combat training exercises like the one in which Algrim died are a standard part of Marine training and not limited to Marines being deployed to Iraq, Vickers said. The training's purposes include helping Marines learn how to distinguish between civilians and hostile forces while searching buildings under tense, chaotic conditions, Vickers said.

"Urban warfare is usually the most difficult kind of warfare because there are so many unknowns," Vickers said.

Seth Algrim was shot on the base around 10 p.m. Monday.

Bruce Algrim said he remembered his son as "tremendous young man."

"He had a good heart. Sometimes I think he looked out for other people more than himself, Algrim said."

Algrim said his son had been home for a few days earlier this month and returned to Camp Pendleton about two weeks ago. He recently decided to re-enlist for an additional four years, Algrim said.

"I think he liked all the good things you hear about the Marines ---- the camaraderie, the way they look after each other and all the honor and prestige you have as soon as you're a Marine," Bruce Algrim said.

In separate interviews conducted Wednesday by the North County Times through e-mail and by telephone, Vickers said Algrim died from a single gunshot wound. Who fired the fatal shot and the kind of gun used remain under investigation, he said.

Vickers said Algrim's death is being investigated by a senior field officer of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Division and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Navy's law enforcement division.

Exercises involving live ammunition include precautions designed to prevent accidental injuries and deaths, Vickers said. He said safety procedures such as ammunition checks before and after exercises, were a regular part of such exercises. Live-fire ranges also include safety officers who oversee and supervise activities during training, Vickers said.

Vickers cited several reasons why Marines prefer using live ammunition instead of blanks during training exercises.

"A weapon with live ammunition has a different feel" from one carrying blanks, Vickers said.

Using real bullets also makes it easier to see when a target has been hit and also helps Marines recognize the sound that guns make when firing live ammunition, he said.

Vickers said deaths during such training exercises are "very, very rare," he said.

His son's shooting came as an unexpected tragedy to Bruce Algrim.

"In Iraq, he had a lot of buddies who were killed, and he made it through that OK. That's what makes all this seem surreal," he said.

Sgt. Seth Algrim of Finney, Kan., was a combat veteran with slightly more than three years in the service enlisting in August 2003.

Before joining the Marine Corps, he was an accomplished cross-country runner in high school. He often showed up to a cross country meet in high-top basketball shoes with untied laces and won the race, and as the first kid to show up for wrestling practice and the last one to leave.

He was born to Bruce E. Algrim and Jacquelin S. Newlin Algrim and was a lifetime resident of Garden City. He was a member of the First United Methodist Church, the Garden Valley Church Youth Group, and the VFW, all of Garden City.

His personal awards include a Combat Action Ribbon, Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

He is survived by his parents, two brothers, Lucas and Jacob, a grandmother, Melusine Algrim and a grandfather, Rev. Wayne Newlin. He is preceded in death by a grandfather, Irwin I. Algrim, and a grandmother, Esther Newlin. He was 22.

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