Naval officer at risk of being fired for fatal training accident


A Marine Corps panel is meeting on Tuesday to decide whether an officer should be removed from his post following the sinking of an amphibious assault vehicle in the ocean off Southern California that killed nine servicemen.

Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner was relieved of command of the 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Landing Party shortly after the accident off San Clemente Island on 30 July 2020. A Marine Corps statement at the time said his removal was based on “a substantial amount of information and data” and spoke of a loss of trust.

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If the Board of Inquiry, made up of three officers, determines that Regner should be removed from his position, he could potentially lose his pension benefits and privileges. The hearing is expected to last up to four days.

A Marine Corps investigation found that inadequate training, poor maintenance and poor judgment on the part of leaders led to the sinking of a navigation tank in one of the deadliest maritime training accidents. for decades.

The amphibious assault vehicle had 16 people on board when it rapidly sank in 385 feet (117 meters) of water. Seven Marines were rescued as the ship returned to a Navy vessel for a training exercise.

Marines use the vehicles to transport troops and their equipment from Navy ships to shore. Armored vehicles equipped with machine guns and grenade launchers resemble tanks as they land for beach attacks, with Marines rolling out to take up position.

Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, who oversaw Regner, was relieved of command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit last year.

The investigation revealed inadequate training of platoon members who had received amphibious assault vehicles that had not been used for over a year and were in “poor condition”. The platoon made hasty repairs to meet a deadline, according to the inquest.

It took 45 minutes for the tank to sink and if the distress signal had been seen sooner it is likely rescuers could have saved the troops, the report said. But there were no safety boats nearby.

As water levels continued to rise, troops who had trained only on land remained inside the broken-down tank in rougher seas than expected, the findings said.

They were not told to remove their helmets, weapons and other equipment, which prevented them from escaping. According to the investigation, their life jackets may also have prevented them from removing their body armor and proved useless in keeping them afloat due to their weight.

At least two of the soldiers had not completed their swimming certifications.

Emergency lights failed and no marks were affixed to a side hatch, leaving troops scrambling in the dark, using cellphone lights to find it, according to the findings.

Once they did, they struggled to open it, wasting time. As they finally opened the hatch, another assault vehicle came to rescue the crew and ended up colliding with the stricken ship, which turned into a wave that swept over it.

Troops were knocked down and water flooded through the hatch and into the compartment, causing the vehicle to quickly sink.

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