Panel Hears Dueling Variations of Deadly Marine Coaching Mishap

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif.  — A Marine Corps officer takes duty for the sinking of an amphibious assault automobile off the Southern California coast that killed 9 service members below his command, however he would not should be discharged for any missteps, his legal professional informed a navy panel Tuesday.

A Marine Corps legal professional countered that Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner’s missteps had been egregious sufficient to justify ending his navy service six months wanting reaching his 20-year mark that will entitle him to full retirement advantages.

Regner, who spoke to Marine Corps investigators, is anticipated to handle the three-officer panel throughout a Board of Inquiry listening to that started Tuesday and is anticipated to last as long as 4 days.

“He is by no means shirked his tasks, he owned the truth that he was the commander on the time, he is aware of that he’s chargeable for the deficiencies that occurred,” mentioned Maj. Cory Carver, Regner’s legal professional. Carver added that whereas the buck stops along with his consumer, his actions do not justify discharge.

A Marine Corps investigation discovered that insufficient coaching, shabby upkeep and poor judgment by leaders led to the July 30, 2020, sinking of a seafaring tank in one of many deadliest Marine coaching accidents in many years.

The amphibious assault automobile had 16 folks aboard when it sank quickly in 385 ft (117 meters) of water off the coast of San Clemente Island. Seven Marines had been rescued because the vessel was returning to a Navy ship on a coaching train.

Regner was relieved of command of the touchdown group of the first Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, fifteenth Marine Expeditionary Unit, shortly after the lethal mishap. A Marine Corps assertion on the time mentioned his removing was primarily based on a “substantial quantity of data and knowledge” and cited a lack of belief.

Regner relied on different Marines to inform him that every one service members had been licensed to swim, although some weren’t, mentioned Carver. Regner was informed “they’re stellar, that they are above common, that they had been deployable,” he mentioned.

Regner knew of mechanical issues however was informed they had been mounted, mentioned Carver. Issues with escape hatches on the all-terrain autos had been identified inside the Marines for “years and years.” 

The Marines use the autos to move troops and their gear from Navy ships to land. The armored autos outfitted with machine weapons and grenade launchers seem like tanks as they roll ashore for seashore assaults, with Marines pouring out of them to take up positions.

Different Marines are anticipated to face doable discharge. Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, who supervised Regner, was relieved of command of the fifteenth Marine Expeditionary Unit final yr.

The panel was anticipated to evaluate 1000’s of pages of investigative reviews and proof earlier than turning to courtroom testimony, seemingly on Thursday.

“That is going to be a troublesome choice,” Lt. Col. Michael McDonald mentioned within the navy’s opening assertion. “The underside line is Lt. Col. Ragner’s substandard efficiency set the situations for the sinking.”

Each mission has issues, McDonald mentioned, however Regner ignored purple flags that ought to have led him to determine the crew was unprepared for its project.

The Marine Corps investigation discovered insufficient coaching of platoon members who had been supplied amphibious assault autos that had not been utilized in greater than a yr and had been in “poor situation.” The platoon made repairs in a rush to fulfill a deadline, in line with the investigation.

It took 45 minutes for the tank to sink and if the misery sign had been seen sooner, it is seemingly rescuers might have saved the troops, the report said. 

Because the water ranges continued rising, the troops who had solely educated on land remained contained in the broken-down tank in seas that had been rougher than anticipated, in line with the findings.

They weren’t informed to take away their helmets, weapons and different gear, which prevented them from with the ability to escape. Their life jackets additionally could have prevented them from eradicating their physique armor and proved ineffective in protecting them afloat due to the load, in line with the investigation. 

No less than two of the troops had not accomplished their swimming certifications. 

The emergency lights didn’t perform, and no markings had been placed on a aspect hatch, leaving troops scrambling at nighttime, utilizing their cellphone lights to seek out it, in line with the findings. 

As soon as they did, they struggled to open it, dropping time. As they lastly pried open the hatch, one other assault automobile got here to rescue the crew and ended up colliding with the distressed vessel, which turned broadside right into a wave that swept over it. 

The troops had been knocked off their ft, and water flooded via the hatch and into the compartment, inflicting the automobile to quickly sink.

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