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Marine Corps commandant to testify before Congress on training fatalities

General David Berger, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, is expected to be asked in May by the House Armed Services Committee to testify on on a Marine training accident last year. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI
General David Berger, Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, is expected to be asked in May by the House Armed Services Committee to testify on on a Marine training accident last year. Pool Photo by Anna Moneymaker/UPI | License Photo

April 12 (UPI) -- A Congressional inquiry into recent U.S. Marine Corps fatalities during training will include testimony from Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., said the House Armed Services' readiness committee, which he chairs, will hold a public hearing on May 3 to examine why, of 84 on-duty deaths of Marines since Oct. 1, 2015, only seven occurred in combat zones, according to the Naval Safety Center.

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Berger will be invited to testify at the hearing, Stars & Stripes and Military.com reported.

"I am standing with the families who have lost loved ones due to a concerning rise in fatal military training accidents and conducting thorough oversight into this matter," Garamendi wrote in a Facebook post last week.

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The hearing has not yet been scheduled on the subcommittee website.

Recent incidents include the July 2020 drowning of eight Marines and one U.S. Navy sailor when their assault vehicle sank off the California coast during a training exercise.

The commander of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit was relieved of command after the incident.

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Garamendi said in a statement that a report "found these deaths to be preventable and caused by shoddy maintenance, a lack of safety boats, and a number of commonsense policies that should have already been in place."

The Navy destroyers USS Fitzgerald and USS John S. McCain were involved in separate collisions in 2017, each resulting in a loss of life.

At a 2019 hearing, Garamendi suggested a lack of Navy transparency, an interest more in shipbuilding than in maintenance and training, and a "brutal operational tempo."

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The planned May hearing will focus on the Marine Corps, and while previous hearings have included testimony from high-ranking officers, Berger will be the highest-level military commander to address the training safety issue before Congress.

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