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Robert James Cottle
Sergeant Major, United States Marine Corps
California State Flag
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)
News Release

IMMEDIATE RELEASE No. 243-10
March 26, 2010 

DOD Identifies Marine Casualties

The Department of Defense announced today the deaths of two Marines who were supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.

                The following Marines died March 24 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan:

Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, 45, of Whittier, California

Lance Corporal Rick J. Centanni, 19, of Yorba Linda, California

Cottle and Centanni were assigned to 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 4thMarine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, based out of Camp Pendleton, California.

For additional background information on these Marines, news media representatives may contact the Marine Forces Reserve public affairs office at 504-678-0052 or the after hours contact number 504-235-6128.


 LAPD officer killed in Afghanistan roadside bomb attack
By Joel Rubin and Tony Perry
Courtesy of the Los Angeles Times
25 March 2010

A member of the Los Angeles Police Department's elite SWAT unit, who also served as a U.S. Marine, was killed Wednesday in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb, LAPD officials said.

Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, 45, was traveling with three other Marines in the Marja region of the country, which has been the focus of an intense U.S.-led offensive against Taliban forces in recent weeks, said LAPD Capt. John Incontro, who oversees SWAT operations.

RJ Cottle PHOTO

Their armored vehicle struck an improvised explosive device, killing Cottle and another Marine and seriously wounding the two others, Incontro said. No other details of the incident were available. Cottle, who joined the LAPD in 1990 and won one of the coveted SWAT positions six years later, is the first active LAPD officer to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, police officials said.

A veteran of two tours of duty in Iraq, Cottle had deployed to Afghanistan in August last year and was scheduled to return home this summer.

A somber mood fell over the department's Elysian Park training academy Wednesday afternoon, as members of the tightly knit SWAT unit were summoned to receive news of Cottle's death from command staff. Officers recalled a friend who stood out even in the rarefied air of SWAT for the intensity he brought to the LAPD's most demanding assignment and the care he showed for other officers who had turned him into one of the unit's leaders.

Incontro remembered the night in 2008 when another SWAT officer, Randall Simmons, was killed during a prolonged standoff with a man who had killed several people and then barricaded himself in a house. After Simmons was shot and rushed to a hospital, Cottle went from one SWAT officer to the next, helping to calm them and keep them focused on the still-unfolding situation.

"He was a very, very special guy," Incontro said. "He is going to be missed."

Cottle was sergeant-major (the top enlisted position) with the 4th Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, based at Camp Pendleton. Among his citations was the Combat Action Ribbon, for having been under fire and returning fire.

At Camp Pendleton, his death was announced Thursday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a $13 million training facility to train Marines to detect the improvised explosive devices that are the top weapon used by the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill and wound U.S. and Afghan troops.

Brigadier General Rex McMillian, deputy commanding general of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, with a slight catch in his voice, praised Cottle as a fine Marine who had shown leadership in a variety of assignments since joining the Marine Corps in 1983.

RJ Cottle In Afghanistan PHOTO

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa released the following statement: "On behalf of the residents of Los Angeles I want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of LAPD Officer Robert Cottle. It is during these times, when tragedy hits home that we are reminded of the dangers our brave men and women in uniform face each day while protecting our country.


 25 March 2010:

Robert J. Cottle, a member of the LAPD's SWAT unit, is the first active Los Angeles police officer to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Cottle, 45, was a Sergeant Major with a United States Marine Corps Reserve battalion from Camp Pendleton. He was in the Marja region on Wednesday when a roadside bomb killed him and another Marine.

"On behalf of the residents of Los Angeles I want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of LAPD Officer Robert Cottle," Mayor Villaraigosa said in a statement. "Very few people know what it truly means to everyday have the courage to unflinchingly march forward in the face of danger. Yet Officer Cottle did so with not only a steadfast commitment to the safety of this city, but with a strong sense of pride and duty for his country."

Paul Weber, president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, said his statement that "R.J., as he was known to his friends, was a remarkable human being who died defending the freedom that he so cherished. He was a phenomenal police officer and a loyal American who believed strongly in the cause for which he volunteered and fought valiantly."

Cottle is survived by his parents, wife and 9-month-old daughter.



Marine killed in Afghanistan was LAPD SWAT member
26 March 2010

Two Marines from Yorba Linda, one of them a Los Angeles police SWAT team member, were killed in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan this week, family members said Thursday.

Marine Lance Corporal Rick Centanni, 19, and Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, 45, both served in a reserve Marine tank unit based at Camp Pendleton, and died in southern Helmand Province.

RJ Cottle In Afghanistan PHOTO
Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, 44, left, and Marine Lance Corporal Rick J. Centanni, 19, stationed in Afghanistan

Centanni is the son of a Santa Ana police gang squad sergeant, and Cottle was a SWAT officer assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department's elite Metropolitan Division, the LAPD confirmed.

Cottle is the first LAPD officer to be killed in the Iraq-Afghanistan wars, according to the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

Family members were informed of the deaths Wednesday, and said it was apparently a coincidence that two men from the same Orange County town were killed in the same attack.

The Marine Corps has not released official information about the attack.

Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said he had known Cottle -- known as "R.J." to his friends -- for 20 years, and was "deeply saddened" by his death.

"He is a fine man and a great example of the best LAPD has to offer," Beck said.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Cottle "will eternally remain a part of this department. His unwavering dedication to public service will undoubtedly live on as an example to future generations of officers."

Cottle's father, Kenneth A. Cottle of Villa Park, said the officer had been due back from his tour of duty at the end of May, and his wife Emily serves in the Navy in Hawaii. The two married about a year ago and have an 8- month-old daughter, Kaila Jane.

Centanni also had local police ties, as the young Marine's father, Sergeant Jon Centanni, serves in the Santa Ana Police Department's gang unit, said Santa Ana police Detective Jose Becerra, a longtime family friend.

Kenneth Cottle, himself an Air Force veteran, recalled that his son was so eager to be a Marine that he tried to enlist when he was 17, but had to wait another year.

When the younger Cottle was 16, a friend of his father's, who served in the Marine Corps for 30 years, told him about a summer camp in Texas run by "old school" Marines.

"So Robert asked to go," his father recalled. "I said, `They'll shave your head and they won't take any crap at all. And don't call me saying you want to come home -- you're going to be there the whole two weeks."'

Right away, he said, his son gave some guff to one of the officers at the camp to see what he could get away with.

"My friend told him these are old, mean Marines who run this camp, and if you flip them off you're going to be in punishment drill. Sure as hell, as soon as he got there, he flipped someone off," the elder Cottle said. "But he thrived on it and asked to go the next summer."

Robert Cottle enjoyed the discipline of the military and fit well with the Los Angeles Police Department, rising up the ranks to join the SWAT team.

Cottle left active Marine duty after seven years in 1990, when he joined the LAPD. He wanted to return to active duty to fight in Afghanistan, his father said.

Centanni joined the Marines right out of high school and aspired to be a cop just like his father, Becerra said.

Becerra, who thought of the young man like a nephew, recounted that when Centanni was 17 years old, he stayed close to Becerra as his "honorary" uncle recuperated from surgery.

"He wouldn't leave my side," Becerra said. "I said, `Go, do what you need to do. It's summertime.' But he wouldn't leave until my wife came home."

The "very charismatic" jock loved all sports, but did best playing football at Esperanza High School, Becerra said. He was not a starter, but his coaches loved his work ethic, Becerra said.

"He was a hard worker, which didn't surprise me. He was one of the hardest-working on the team," Becerra said.


Sergeant Major Cottle will be buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on 16 April 2010 following services at the Fort Myer, Virginia, Post Chapel at 1:00 PM on that date.

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Members and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, escort the caisson during a burial 
service for Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
The Marine honor guard and members and officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, escort the caisson during a burial 
service for Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Officers from the U.S. Marines and the Los Angeles Police Department accompany the flag-draped casket of LAPD SWAT 
Officer and Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan, during a 
funeral procession in Los Angeles, Tuesday, April 13, 2010.

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, center, leads members and officers of the LAPD, during 
a burial service for Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010
 

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Marine honor guards carry the remains of Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle and the American flag that draped 
his coffin during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010.

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Los Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck, glances at the remains of Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle, 
during a burial service at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010

RJ Cottle Funeral Services PHOTO 16 April 2010
Frances Emily Cottle, left, is handed the American flag that draped her husband's coffin by Sergeant Major Eric Stockton, 
during a burial service for Marine Sergeant Major Robert J. Cottle at Arlington National Cemetery Friday, April 16, 2010

COTTLE, ROBERT JAMES
SGTMAJ   US MARINE CORPS
DATE OF BIRTH: 02/18/1965
DATE OF DEATH: 03/24/2010
BURIED AT: SECTION 60  SITE 9152
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

Webmaster: Michael Robert Patterson


Posted: 3 April 2010 Updated: 24 April 2010 Updated: 2 May 2010 Updated: 7 June 2010
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RJ Cottle Gravesite PHOTO By Eileen Horan June 2010

RJ Cottle Gravesite PHOTO By Eileen Horan June 2010
Photos Courtesy of Eileen Horan, June 2010

RJ Cottle Gravesite PHOTO By Eileen Horan April 2010

RJ Cottle Gravesite PHOTO By EIleen Horan April 2010
Photos Courtesy of Eileen Horan, April 2010