Officer Faces Discharge Over Deadly Marine AAV Sinking

January 4, 2022Hannah Ray Lambert
Marine AAV

A Marine Corps Assault Amphibious Vehicle (AAV) assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit approaches the well deck of the USS Wasp in the Philippine Sea, Jan. 14, 2019. US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Daniel Barker.

A Marine Corps panel will meet Tuesday, Jan. 4, to determine whether Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner should be discharged over the deadly sinking of an Assault Amphibious Vehicle, or AAV, off the coast of California in July 2020.

Sixteen service members attached to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were returning to the USS Somerset after a training exercise near Camp Pendleton when their AAV sank on July 30, 2020, killing eight Marines and one Navy corpsman.

Regner was relieved of his command of Battalion Landing Team, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, in October 2020.

The Board of Inquiry, composed of three officers, will decide if Regner should be discharged and possibly lose retirement benefits and privileges, The Associated Press reported. The hearing could last up to four days.

Regner was the first of two officers fired in the wake of the accident. Last year, Col. Christopher J. Bronzi, who supervised Regner, was relieved of command of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit. Several Navy personnel faced administrative action due to the disaster, but none lost their job. The families of the deceased service members also filed a lawsuit against the AAV manufacturer, BAE Systems.

marine aav
A Board of Inquiry convenes this week to decide if Lt. Col. Michael J. Regner should be discharged over the sinking of an Assault Amphibious Vehicle July 30, 2020, near Camp Pendleton, California. The accident killed eight Marines and one Navy corpsman. US Marine Corps photo.

An investigation by the Marine Corps found the aging and poorly maintained vehicle began taking on water shortly after leaving San Clemente Island, causing the radios and electrical system to fail. The emergency lights in the vessel did not function, leaving troops using cell phone lights and fumbling in the dark to find the upper hatch. Shortly after they opened the hatch, a wave swept over the AAV, flooding the compartment and rapidly sinking the vehicle.

According to Marine Corps documents, the AAV had “two specific areas of watertight integrity” that should have “deadlined” the vehicle and excluded it from training missions. However, the report pinned much of the blame for the nine deaths on the AAV’s vehicle commander — who stood on top of the slowly sinking craft for 20 minutes and waved a distress flag — for waiting too long to order the evacuation of embarked troops.

Subsequent investigations into the accident revealed a history of poor training and safety practices within the fleet.

“It’s really a culture thing that the track is going to have water in it, and it doesn’t matter,” a Marine who served aboard AAVs from 2008 to 2013 told Coffee or Die Magazine last year. “From the beginning when you’re at the ‘schoolhouse’ it’s ingrained in your head that the track is going to take on water, that it’s not a big deal.”

The AAV was the service’s primary troop landing vehicle for decades, able to carry upwards of a dozen Marines onto a beach from a larger troop carrier offshore. But the Marine Corps announced in December that it would retire AAVs from water operations. The carriers will still be used on land.

Read Next: After General Calls Out Twitter Harasser, at Least 30 Women Come Forward Claiming Harassment

Hannah Ray Lambert
Hannah Ray Lambert

Hannah Ray Lambert is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die who previously covered everything from murder trials to high school trap shooting teams. She spent several months getting tear gassed during the 2020-2021 civil unrest in Portland, Oregon. When she’s not working, Hannah enjoys hiking, reading, and talking about authors and books on her podcast Between Lewis and Lovecraft.

More from Coffee or Die Magazine
dear jack mandaville
Dear Jack: Which Historic Battle Would You Want To Witness?

Ever wonder how much Jack Mandaville would f*ck sh*t up if he went back in time? The American Revolution didn't even see him coming.

west point time capsule
West Point Time Capsule Yields Centuries-Old Coins

A nearly 200-year-old West Point time capsule that at first appeared to yield little more than dust contains hidden treasure, the US Military Academy said.

Ouija Board aircraft carrier
Low-Tech ‘Ouija Boards’ Have Helped Aircraft Carriers Operate for Decades

Since the 1920s, a low-tech tabletop replica of an aircraft carrier’s flight deck has been an essential tool in coordinating air operations.

Army vs. Navy mascot
The Navy Goat vs. the Army Mule: Mascot Origin Stories

For nearly as long as the Army-Navy football rivalry, the academies’ hoofed mascots have stared each other down from the sidelines. Here are their stories.

ukraine long-range weapon
Zelenskyy Says Ukraine Has Developed a Long-Range Weapon, a Day After Strike Deep Inside Russia

Zelenskyy said on his Telegram channel the weapon was produced by Ukraine’s Ministry of Strategic Industries but gave no other details.

7 of the Best Movie Ambush Scenes of All Time

Ambushes make for great action scenes. Here are seven of the best to ever grace the big screen.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, with his daughter, center right, reportedly named Ju Ae, review the honor guard during their visit to the navy headquarter in North Korea
North Korea Launches Missile Toward Sea After US Flies Bomber During Drills

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement that the launch occurred Wednesday but gave no further details, such as how far the missile flew.

  • About Us
  • Privacy Policy
  • Careers
Contact Us
Contact Us
© 2023 Coffee or Die Magazine. All Rights Reserved