Naval officer faces shipwreck dump that killed 9 service members off SoCal coast

A Marine Corps officer takes responsibility for sinking an amphibious assault vehicle off the southern California coast that killed nine service members under his command, but he doesn’t deserve to be fired for a misstep , his lawyer told a military panel on Tuesday.

A Marine Corps attorney has countered that Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner’s missteps were egregious enough to warrant ending his military service six months before he turns 20, which would qualify him for retirement benefits. complete.

Regner, who spoke to Marine Corps investigators, is expected to address the three-officer panel at a Board of Inquiry hearing that began Tuesday and is expected to last up to four days.

“He never ran away from his responsibilities, he recognized that he was the commander at the time, he knows that he is responsible for the shortcomings that took place,” said Major Cory Carver, Regner’s lawyer . Carver added that while the blame lies with his client, his actions do not justify his dismissal.

A Marine Corps investigation has found that inadequate training, poor maintenance and poor judgment by leaders led to the sinking of a Marine tank on July 30, 2020 in one of the worst maritime training accidents. murderers for decades.

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

Regner was relieved of command of Landing Party 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit shortly after the sinking. A statement from the Marine Corps at the time said its withdrawal was based on a “substantial amount of information and data” and spoke of a loss of trust.

Regner relied on other Marines to tell him that all service members were certified to swim, although some were not, Carver said. Regner was told “they’re stellar, they’re above average, they’re deployable,” he said.

Regner was aware of the mechanical issues but was told they were fixed, Carver said. Problems with escape hatches on all-terrain vehicles had been known in the Marines for “years and years”.

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 roll ashore for attacks on the beach, with Marines rolling out to take up position.

Other Marines are expected to face a possible discharge. Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, who oversaw Regner, was relieved of command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit last year.

The panel was expected to review thousands of pages of investigative reports and evidence before moving to courtroom testimony, likely on Thursday.

“This is going to be a tough decision,” Lt. Col. Michael McDonald said in the Army’s opening statement. “The bottom line is that Lt. Col. Ragner’s substandard performance set the conditions for the sinking.”

Every mission has problems, McDonald said, but Regner ignored red flags that should have led him to decide the crew was unprepared for their mission.

The Marine Corps investigation found inadequate training of platoon members who 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.

As water levels continued to rise, troops who had trained only on land remained inside the broken-down reservoir 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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