A U.S. Marine Corps investigation found that pandemic exhaustion and intensive troop engagements played a central role in the drowning of nine U.S. servicemen last July during a pre-deployment training session off the coast of the California coast.
The report, released Wednesday, investigated the formation of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and examined the various demands placed on commanders, personnel and troops before a 26-ton amphibious assault vehicle sank.
“Claims about their time and attention surfaced in a number of interviews with several senior officers who described conditions during this period as being right after their experience in combat,” Lt. Gen. Carl wrote. Mundy III, referring to requests including the restrictions of Covid-19. , militarization on the southern border and heightened tensions with Iran.
The eight Marines and one sailor, aged 18 to 23, were killed when the AAV sank while transporting them from San Clemente Island to the USS Somerset. A previous investigation in March found the deaths “preventable”. The investigation found that poor vehicle maintenance and human error, including a long delay and disorderly rescue efforts, contributed to the disaster.
Wednesday’s report was released alongside the findings of a parallel Navy investigation that revealed communication issues between the AAV and the ship at Somerset Wharf. According to the investigation, Somerset’s commander at the time, Navy Captain Dave Kurtz, “did not fully understand the lines of communication” between the ship and the Navy vehicles involved.
Nonetheless, navy officials said communication problems did not lead to the disaster, as Somerset reacted swiftly as soon as the seriousness of the situation became evident.
The results prompted the Navy and Marine Corps to promise further changes, including requiring only Navy boats to serve as safety boats. During the disaster, the Navy’s safety boats were under maintenance and were therefore unavailable. As a result, the Marine Corps dispatched additional armored landing craft, including one that collided with the sinking vehicle.
“This tragedy should never have happened,” said Vice-Admiral Roy Kitchener. “We will not let lives be lost in vain. We have learned the lessons and will continuously improve the way we plan and execute amphibious operations, ”he added.