Marine recruit dies after collapsing during Camp Pendleton training

Marines walk up a hill.
Marines make their way up a hill during a three-day crucible event at Camp Pendleton in 2020.
(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)

An 18-year-old Marine recruit died in September after collapsing during training at Camp Pendleton, the Marines said in a statement late Saturday.

Pfc. Javier Pong “became unconscious and unresponsive” while “conducting scheduled training” on Sept. 27, the Marines said. He was pronounced dead at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton.

Brig. Gen. Jason Morris, the commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said the Marines are investigating Pong’s death.


“We are greatly saddened by the untimely passing of Pfc. Javier Pong as he pursued his journey to become a United States Marine,” Morris said in a statement. “We are committed to honoring his memory, supporting those with whom he served, and investigating the cause of his death to ensure we can safely transform civilians into Marines and retain the trust of the American people.”

President Biden will designate Colorado’s Camp Hale as a national monument in a move aimed at helping a vulnerable Democrat hold on to his seat.

Oct. 6, 2022

Pong was from Las Cruces, N.M., and graduated high school in May, according to his obituary.

Pong’s death was announced by the Marines in an emailed statement Saturday evening — 11 days after the recruit died. The Marines did not respond to the San Diego Union-Tribune’s questions about what type of training recruits were engaged in when Pong collapsed.

Capt. Joshua Collins, a Marine spokesperson at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, said Pong’s unit was in its eighth week of training. Pong was attached to Echo Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion.

Recruits who train at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego spend about five weeks there before moving to Camp Pendleton for another five weeks of field training, according to the Marines’ recruit training matrix. Week 8 is “Basic Warrior Training,” according to the matrix, and includes survival combat skills such as marksmanship, land navigation and maneuvering under enemy fire.


Suicides among active-duty service members increased by more than 40% between 2015 and 2020, according to U.S. Defense Department data.

Oct. 10, 2022

In-service military training deaths are routinely announced within about 24 hours and the name or names of service members killed are then normally released after another 24 hours, pending next-of-kin notification.

When Seaman Kyle Mullen, 24, died Feb. 4 during SEAL training in Coronado, the Navy announced the death in a news release the next day. They named Mullen in a separate release the following day, Feb. 6.

Collins said the Marines delayed releasing information about the death “out of a desire to provide the family with time to grieve.”

The Marine Corps did not release Pong’s service information or home of record. The corps also did not release his service photo.